It has to be some of the most heart-breaking moments in parenting.
When you are unable to shield your child from the cruelties of the world.
Or the playground.
My sweet, little #2son was so sad in the back seat of the car today on the way home from school.
“What’s the matter, buddy?” I asked.
“Nuh-fin’,” he said, staring out the window.
I let it go. He always talks when he’s ready. And I guessed that he didn’t want to talk about it with his big brother around.
Changing out of his school clothes, I knocked on the bedroom door. He was sitting, forlornly, on his bed.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I asked.
“In private,” as he rose to shut the door.
It all came pouring out. How all the kids were playing “Snake” on the playground but he couldn’t always hold on because he wasn’t fast enough and everyone was getting frustrated with him because he couldn’t keep up so they asked him (nicely) not to play. He insisted on playing. He kept trying to keep up, but he couldn’t, so then they demanded (not so nicely) that he go play somewhere else, that he was ruining their game.
He was devastated.
He’s in a mixed age classroom, ages 6 – 9. And quite honestly, he’s not terribly athletic. I asked him if he could go play with his other friends. But he said, no. Everyone wanted to play with the “big kids” and they all were playing “Snake” (whatever that is) so he was left to play by himself.
“Did you talk to your teacher?”
He was alarmed that I would suggest such a thing. “No! This is something I should handle myself.”
So I told him about Mary Kay and how, as much as I loved the game of baseball, as much as I knew about the sport and my beloved Detroit Tigers, I was horrible at it. I struck out. A lot. More times than I ever connected with the ball. And Mary Kay batted after I did. Every time I’d approach home plate she’d taunt, “Jane! Don’t strike out!” To this day I can still hear her whine. How she’d drag out dooooon’t and oouuuut. And every time she’d get into my head, I would fulfill her prophecy. To her dismay. And my great embarrassment.
And then, we talked some more. But we really didn’t come up with any solutions. We talked about feelings. We talked about not always measuring up to others’ expectations. We talked about how sometimes there’s not a whole lot we can do to change how people feel or how they handle things.
He gave me a great big hug and said, “Thanks, Mom! I love you so much!”
He felt so much better.
But I didn’t. I wanted to run back to the school and give those kids a piece of my mind. I wanted to confide in the teachers and have them make those kids play with my son. I wanted to turn back time. I wanted to erase that horrible experience from his memory
But what was I hoping to accomplish? And if he didn’t learn how to deal with this disappointment what would happen when, not if, something bigger came along?
These are the moments I hate being a parent. I feel inadequate to protect. I can only arm him with as much love and support I can muster.
And that just has to be enough.