The heartbreakers of pre-k

Last night Thalia came home from school, not her usual happy self.

“What happened in school today?” I asked.

“Well, today we made friendship bracelets. But no one made me one.”

Evidently the kids all created bracelets for anyone they wanted – a kid in the class, a sibling, a parent. But while many bracelets were exchanged, she was left bare-wristed.

After she explained the situation, she stuck out her bottom lip as far is it would go, lowered her lids beneath her long lashes, stared at the ground.

And promptly broke my heart.

I don’t want to be the parent who insists that every kid on the field gets a trophy “just for playing.” I believe in rewards for accomplishment and that life is sometimes unfair. But I understand why Valentine’s cards are expected to be handed out to everyone, the same as cupcakes and birthday invitations. I understand that social alienation in preschool is a whole different ballgame. I understand that the rule “You can’t say you can’t play” which my mom always talks about, makes a whole lot of sense.

And I understand that Thalia, my sweet, sensitive, social little girl didn’t come home beaming like she imagined the other kids did, extending her arm and squealing that someone had made her a friendship bracelet.

[image: Healing, by Shirae on etsy]


41 thoughts on “The heartbreakers of pre-k”

  1. Oooooofffffff. Guess what the little girls in Massachusetts who love her sooo much will be making this weekend? And they won't forget Sage.

    (and I agree–the teacher should have looked out for this and given any bare-wristed child a bracelet she had made for just this circumstance).

  2. Seems like the mistake here was the teacher letting the kids make them for other kids in the class. Sets up the situation.

    I'd say something to the teacher about it so she doesn't repeat the mistake. And maybe make Thalia a friendship bracelet?

  3. Oh my God. I SO dread the day that Isabella and Camilla come home with the lower lip droop. I feel your pain in anticipation of my own.

    I'm going to have spare bracelets made up ahead of time I think, hehe!


  4. Ugh. Any mother can empathize. Stuff like this kills me.

    But remembering being a little girl has me thinking that receiving a bracelet or two in the mail from FOM's girls or even from her own mom will go a long way in making it right. Hugs to that little sweetie. (And her mama.)

  5. UGH! That brought me to tears! I already dread that my four year old child will find herself in similar situations. I know we can't protect them from all the disappointments in life that are sure to happen, but it does appear to me that this one could have been avoided. I agree with Susan, a word to the teacher could save another student (and there's a good chance Thalia wasn't the only sad child going home that day) the feelings of rejection. And, perhaps a bracelet from a secret friend could lighten her spirits!

  6. Awe that's sad!!! That's difficult in a group setting like that. If it's a one on one (your child and another child) it's easier to explain, I think… In a simple way for preschoolers to understand: “Some kids are mean and some kids are nice”.

  7. I'm in the midst of drafting a similar post for my own blog…different situation, same heartbreak.

    I feel as you do though, making everyone get everything (i.e., forcing inclusion) doesn't solve the problem. Trouble is, I don't know what does 🙁

  8. That breaks MY heart. As if raising children isn't hard enough without silly but huge things like this. If I had any skill at all, I'd make her a friendship bracelet. You too, I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

  9. STW there are different situations where I think it's about mean kids, but in this one, it was just a matter of not “being picked.”

    Other commenters are right – she wasn't the only one. But she's the kind of sensitive soul who probably feels it more than they do.

  10. I want to know how kids know how to do the whole stick lip out, lower lashes thing.

    It breaks my heart too. And when I stick MY lower lower lip out, I don't look adorable at all. Which doubly breaks my heart.

  11. Oh, your sweet girl, my heart breaks a little for her. When I was in kindergarten we had the same project and nobody made me a friendship bracelet. I can remember that feeling like it was yesterday. Ugh.

    Come to think of it, that's when my mom started what she called the red light failure parties. If someone had a particularly bad day, we'd all go out for ice cream =)

    I hope your Thalia forgets about this soon. And next time, I hope the teacher takes the time to make a few friendship bracelets herself for kids like Thalia.

  12. Oh, Liz, I'm so sorry. I told my husband the other day that I was so afraid of the day that something like this happens to our kid. I know it will because it happens to all of us, which is why it's so painful to watch our own kids go through it. It's part of how we build empathy I guess.

  13. Ugh. Agree with Christina and Susan that it was the teacher's (no doubt inadvertent) mistake, but I know that doesn't alleviate the hurt that you and your sweet girl are feeling.

  14. As a teacher myself, I urge you to (kindly) tell the teacher about this. I've accidentally done stuff like this, too, and I'm always grateful when parents let me know. Yes, disappointment is part of life, but it doesn't have to be a regular part of pre-K.

  15. I feel your pain – that is simply the worst to see your little one so sad over something that easily could have been prevented. Hoping a gentle talk with the teacher will prevent any future broken hearts.

    BTW – when I was in school, they used to give out candy grams on holidays. I would sit and wait for the door to open with the basket of lollipops, waiting anxiously for someone to send me some love. Never happened. I eventually started sending them to myself; thus began my initial understanding of loving myself first!

    My heart goes out to you.

  16. Our kids are going to learn the hard lessons in life sooner than we want, whether we want them to or not. They do NOT need to learn them as the result of a preschool art project.

    I'm sure that this situation was unforeseen and unintended, but mentioning it to the teacher might be a good idea all the same.

  17. Aw that just sucks. Poor, sweet girl.

    I'm with the others' who said it was (hopefully) an inadvertent error on the teachers part.

    So many tough things to navigate with the little ones!

  18. This is something I'm not looking forward to as a mom. Poor Thalia. It takes the fun out of making the bracelets in the first place. I agree that you might want to mention it to the teacher. That way other little ones won't have the sad day at school that Thalia had.

  19. Such a hard lesson for such an innocent, sweet soul. Don't you just wish you could clear the path and never let anything like this happen? I hate moments like this!

  20. Ugggghhhh.

    We had something like that happen this past spring, when Emilia was one of a very few kids in her preschool class who didn't get an invitation to a much-discussed and much-anticipated (among her classmates) birthday party. I felt physically ill from the OOF.

    So, yeah. Hear you.

  21. My sensitive 4 year old just started preschool this year. I agree that in preK the teacher should have intervened. I don't like the “everybody wins and is awesome” mentality for sports etc. but our little kids are just learning how to develop friendships and their egos are so fragile! Poor sweetie, hope she is feeling better now-I agree, stuff like that is a knife in a mother's heart, even if we 'get it' rationally.

    Found your blog via Queen of Spain. 🙂

  22. I remember this kind of feeling, when I was a child. It makes me want to do everything I can to keep it from happening to my girls. I want, so badly, to protect them and give them a perfect childhood. But I can't.

    I agree the teacher could have thought this true, and really appreciate Randi's (above comment) take on bringing it to the teacher's attention.

    And I wonder if these are the little moments where we really get to be purposeful about parenting, when we figure out the right thing to say, or the right question, or how to just be there and help those little souls as they learn, for themselves, how to respond to the knocks of life, which are only going to keep coming..

  23. Yeah…the teacher should have said for them to make them for someone at home. Preschool is such a learning stage, but there are some things they just do NOT need to learn the hard way. Like this.

  24. I didn't read all the comments so this may have been suggested already. I'm sure she wasn't the only 'bare-wrister'. Talk to the teacher, find out who the other kids were and have your little girl make those kids a bracelet. Knowing that someone felt as bad as she did and doing something to make them feel better will surely cheer her up. She might even make a friend or two.

  25. Awful. Excruciating. No solution, ever. God…imagine middle school. I STILL constantly feel like I'm the only one who didn't get a friendship bracelet.
    I guess it could be worse. I guess Thalia could have been the one deciding who was and was not bracelet worthy.

    My little guy came home from school the other day and told me that he didn't get picked for a team in PE. I tried to comfort him while throwing up in my mouth.

  26. That's when the mama bear in me wants to up and start eating the idiots…not the kids. They are just being kids. The teacher should have thought ahead. As the mother of a special needs child I see that lip a lot. All I can tell Beanstalk is that he is worth so much no bracelet (ball game, posse of friends) is big enough to handle it. Still…

  27. owwwwwwch. Poor Thalia! 🙁
    Frog has a similar situation last year at age almost-3 when he sat down next to his “girlfriend” in class for lunch and she got up and moved next to someone else. he was devastated! Broken kid-heart is the worst.

  28. I'm a PhD student in mass communication at the University of Florida and would like to contact you as a leading momblogger for an academic research project.

    Please email me at so I can send the pertinent information to you.


    Linda Hallam

    University of Florida

  29. I agree with so many of the comments left here; especially that there is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing your own child heartbroken…. Thalia sounds like a lovely little girl, the sensitive ones are always the best. I wish her a really great week back at school; I'll be hoping something happens there that makes her so happy, she doesn't stop talking about it until it's time for bed, and then settles in to sleep with a huge smile on her face. Yep, the sensitive ones are the best.

  30. Doesn't seem like the wisest choice by the teacher. On the other hand, my daughter just turned 20 and this “slighting” (intentional or not) never, ever stops. I hate to say it … but it only gets worse. Middle school being the worst age of all for girls. That being said, I love having a daughter and all the girly ups and down that go with it.

  31. I LOVE that book! The better thing for the teacher to have said would've been, “We're all going to make a bracelet for the person who sits to our right” or something like that.

    The book, “You can't say you can't play” is awesome. I used it throughout teaching kindergarten.

  32. Teacher should have had the kiddos draw names so everyone got a bracelet. 🙁

  33. I agree, you should talk to the teacher and suggest the drawing of names. Some guidance goes a long way to make up for the lack of wisdom.


  34. Heartbreaking. Hugs to Thalia and her mama. I agree with the other commenters that this was most likely an unintentional oversight by her teacher but it's worth a gentle mention. One other thing you might try is to turn this experience into a way to reinforce the positive feelings associated with giving, as opposed to the negative ones associated with not receiving. Maybe have her come up with something she can make for all of her friends in her class. Imagine how excited she'll be when her friends are grateful for having received a friendship bracelet (or card or painting) from Thalia. Just a thought.

  35. I have cried over this a few times in Hannah's short 4 years – I so can empathize. What I have the hardest time with is that I never thought it would start THIS EARLY! I just wasn't prepared with having this type of heartbreak (for her OR me) so soon. Hannah is so sensitive too and there sometimes are just no words to help her… just a hug and luckily they don't hold grudges too long or really remember the sadness because I'm sure tomorrow, she'll be the one with 7 bracelets on her wrist.

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