“I wish I had glasses,” my six-year-old daughter said to me.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because Kirsty’s* got glasses.”
“You mean Kirsty in your class?”
“But you don’t need glasses. Besides, you’d have to look after them, make sure you didn’t lose them, clean them, wear them during sport. That’d be annoying.” I was hoping my negativity would steer her off the I-want-what-she-has track that impressionable kids so often venture down.
“But if I had glasses everyone could make fun of me instead of her.”
A lump of sadness for Kirsty lodged in my throat and I smiled at my daughter with pride.
“So can you buy me some glasses?” she said.
Hang on, I thought. This might be a clever ruse to get something she wants without having to save her pocket money. But I wanted to support her good intentions, so that weekend I bought her a pair of spectacles with regular glass instead of prescription lenses. She chose a tangerine, rectangular pair that made her look like a child secretary. She wore those glasses all weekend, admiring her reflection in every mirror and window she walked past. Her new look was clearly a fashion statement and I chided myself for falling into her trap. I bet she doesn’t even wear them to school, I said to myself.
But at school on Monday, she wore her glasses, as well as a wide smile of self-satisfaction.
When I picked her up that afternoon, I asked, “Did your classmates like your new glasses?”
“Did Kirsty feel good that she’s not the only one with glasses now?”
“That’s great. You should be proud of yourself.”
A week later, a lens popped out of her spectacles (partly because my daughter is very rough, and partly because they were the cheapest pair I could find).
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll fix it.”
“It’s okay, I don’t wear them any more.”
“The novelty has worn off, has it?”
“Well, at least they did the job.”
“To stop kids making fun of Kirsty.”
“They were still mean to her.”
“Because her glasses have funny flowers on the side.” She twirled her little fingers and drew flowers in the air. “It’s okay, they’re nice to her now.”
“The teacher said anyone who picks on Kirsty has to go to the Principal’s office.” She smirked.
I felt disappointed that my daughter’s beautiful act of compassion had backfired. I worried that it would discourage her from future compassionate acts. But at school assembly that Friday she was awarded a certificate of compassion.