Do you know Anne of Green Gables? This red-haired orphan with a bad temper, but also gifted with a thrilling imagination? The author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, wrote eight books about Anne. From when she mistakenly arrives at Prince Edward Island, in Canada, at 11 years of age to the last book which is mostly about her youngest child, but where we can place her at her late 40’s (Anne, not her youngest child).
One thing that I’ve noticed when reading all of these books (yes, I read all of them) is that Anne doesn’t like it when the adults laugh at her, just because she uses big words at a young age or that she talks about what she has been imagining lately. A few books later, when she becomes an adult and a mother, she promises to herself she will never laugh at her children because she knows they will feel sad, misunderstood, belittled.
There are a few episodes throughout the books where she feels like laughing at what her children are telling her, but she manages not to laugh. Although Anne is just a fiction character, that is still heroic in my eyes.
So, why do I ramble on about this? Because I also remember being laughed at as a child. I was confiding in someone about my worries, and I was laughed at. I had been thinking about a matter I found very important, spoke out and was laughed at. I felt I was being treated unfairly, told an adult and I was laughed at.
I clearly remember the feeling of humiliation, betrayal and standing alone on this one. But I also felt a bit of frustration, as I couldn’t understand why the adults always told me how important it was for us to learn to listen to other people and understand them, but when it came to me or other children, they quickly made up their minds and decided it was silly and completely acceptable to be laughed at. How dare they?!
Long before I met Anne of Green Gables – can you tell I’m a huge fan? – I decided when I would become an adult, I would not laugh at a child. I would not trigger those feelings I had in another little human being’s heart. Not me.
I remember as a child to have long talks with my friends about friendship, school, games, family, pets, travelling and many other things. We took each other seriously and only laughed when the matter really was funny. How perfect we were!
Last summer, I was spending a joyful evening with my family at our summerhouse. My two cousins, age 7 and 4, where talking about school that was about to start. The oldest one said there was a big girl teasing her in the playground and she hoped she wouldn’t do the same this coming school year. The 4 year old said very firmly and sure of herself: “Well, you just have to stand up for yourself, look her in the eye, and say you will not play with her if she continues with this behaviour. Because I think that is what she really wants. She wants to play with you.”
You know what I did? I laughed. I laughed because I found it so delightfully sweet that my cousin could think and say something so elaborate like that, her train of thought and her easiness in giving her older sister an advice amazed me.
She looked at me horrified and said: “You are laughing at me!” folded her little arms, lay her head on the table and started crying out loud. My heart squeezed. How could I? After having felt what she did and after the promise I made to myself? How could I?
As she felt humiliated, I thought it wouldn’t help to say sorry in private. No, I would do it before the whole family. I told her I was really sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh at her. She had said very wise words about friendship and how to defend oneself. I also tried to explain why I laughed, which was a bit hard for her to understand.
I believe I have learned my lesson and that this summer I will take my cousin seriously. I know you might think I was very sensitive as a child and my cousin is too, but shouldn’t there also be a place for us in the world? Yes, this world will make sure we toughen up a bit, but until then, let children be children and listen what they have to say. No judging, and if you don’t understand them, don’t laugh, just ask them to explain again. You might be surprised at what you can learn!