Over the weekend we were at my brother in law’s for a family birthday. The kids were having an absolute whale of a time and my 3 year old son was laughing and playing happily with his older cousins for hours. They are really good with him and generally wonderfully patient.
Naturally however, there came a time in the evening where the older kids got a bit tired of having a ‘baby’ around and they locked him out of the room where they were playing. I could hear him asking them: “open the door pwees, open the door”, but I didn’t pay much attention at that point. And then came a crash and a cry and spans of tears.
“My finger, my head” he cried from the passage floor. Naturally I rushed over and picked him up and tried to console him. I then marched into the room where the kids were playing and asked (well, shouted I’m embarrassed to say) that they apologize to him. I went on to say (shout) that they need to be patient with him because he is still little, and that if they are tired of playing with him they must call me, or their mom or dad, and ask us to take him away instead of lashing out. The good kids that they are, they all apologized and were genuinely sorry for upsetting him so.
I sat hugging him in the bathroom while he got over the ordeal and a few heart sore minutes later, he was smiling and playing again.
Later, driving home, I couldn’t shake the feeling I got when he was crying and clinging to me. Even once we were home, a few hours after he and his baby sister went to bed, I was still feeling really uneasy…and then my hubby called me out.
“Babe” he said, “kids will be kids, and it’s better that he experiences a little rejection now, from family, with us close by, and learns to deal with it, instead of it only happening for the first time at school. I know you are sensitive because you had a rough time, but he will be ok”.
That’s when it hit me. My hubby was spot on. I was not upset about this small event. I was upset because I see so much of myself in my son, and I don’t want him to have all the same experiences that I did. I overreacted to a small, totally normal kids situation, that I really could have handled better, and, not to justify it, but I understand now why I did so.
You see, there was a phase in primary school when I became uncool. The other kids didn’t want to play with me anymore, and I was left to eat my lunch alone for a while. I’d go home and close my door and cry. My folks – bless them, told me that I was allowed to invite friends to play, and I tried very hard not to let on to them that I didn’t have any. At that point I was teased for not shaving my legs (I was 10 at the time), had my school shoes strung up on the rugby poles a few times and was called a nerd or a goody two shoes on several occasions…it was not the horrible bullying you see on tv these days, or read about on the news, but to me it was awful.
My son has a very soft nature. When I see him in a social setting I see how he looks for approval and tries to please those around him. Even at his young age, he already has a strong level of empathy, and I worry that he might also be teased and bullied later on.
As a parent, we want to protect our kids from harm, and I want nothing more than to protect my boy from being hurt. I guess what is the most frustrating thing for me, is that I cannot hold his hand all the time, every day, forever and ever. And as much as I hate to admit it, I know that to do so would actually hamper him instead of helping him. I know that it is important that kids experience challenges and difficulties. They need to learn important skills like negotiation, empathy, resilience, to stand up for themselves, and to get through tough times.
I know that while I will be able to protect him from certain things, I cannot, and should not, be there all the time. Instead, I’ve got to do everything I can to give him the necessary support, love, and skills to get through these kinds of challenges.
This morning in the car on the way to school I asked him if he had a good weekend.
“Yes, but I fall down, and my heart was sore” he said. I was amazed that he already knew to some degree what I was referring to, and it showed me how, even at just 3 years of age, things that bug him already stick with him already. I took the rest of the drive to talk through what happened with him, and while I can’t remember my exact words now, I can remember exactly what he said and did when we got out the car at school…
He wrapped me in a huge hug and told me “My heart is all better now Mommy”.
Needless to day, I blubbed like a baby on my drive to work and had to reapply my makeup in the office parking lot.