I haven't figured this out yet . . .
It seems like I’ve encountered this topic a lot recently. Not only have I read several blog posts regarding the inevitable moment when your child will encounter a situation that will make you cry, but I recently read in Parents magazine how letting our children suffer is actually good for them.
For my wife, her first moment came about a year ago when she and G were at the mall, playing in the little play area they have for children there. I should also preface this story by saying that until corrective surgery last September, G had a very noticeable lazy eye.
While G was running around and having a good time, two boys who were a couple of years older than him stopped in front of him and asked him what was wrong with his face and weren’t very nice about it. G was too young to fully understand what was happening, but my wife said the look on his face was one of confusion and embarrassment. I wasn’t there, but just hearing about it made me outraged.
Today, something similar, though not AS horrible, happened. The kids and I went to the neighborhood park where we often see the same faces. There is a little boy about a year older than G, who’s often at the park and has a couple of friends he normally plays with. The first several times we saw them, they ignored my kids. G tried to play with the boy, but the boy sort of sneered at G and made it pretty clear he wasn’t interested in playing together.
This was somewhat understandable because his mom seems like she always has a scowl on her face and isn’t the friendliest of people. I figure, no matter, they don’t have to be friends if they don’t want to.
Around Easter, we were at the park and the boy came out to play with several of his cousins. Finally, with the help from his far more friendly cousins, did he include G in their playground romp. The little boy even formally introduced himself. I thought this was a nice change and figured they could now play together if they ever saw each other again.
Today was the first time we saw this boy since that last encounter. He was there with another kid from the neighborhood and G immediately recognized the boy and remembered his name. He was so excited to see this boy and that was what upset me about today.
G kept running after the boy, shouting his name, wanting to talk to him and kept telling the boy he had something cool to show him. This boy was not interested at all. He ignored G and ran away from him every chance he got; so he didn’t really act any differently than he had all the previous occasions to Easter.
But the fact that my son thought this boy would play with him because he had previously, and was now being ignored, ignited a similar rage in me as when those boys made fun of G’s eye a year ago.
G eventually got the hint that this boy didn’t want to play with him and simply sat down and just watched them play from a distance.
It was a little heartbreaking to witness and when I invited G to come over to the swings where I was with C, so I could push him, he just put his head down and whimpered. G’s not used to rejection because all his classmates at school are willing to play with him and all the other kids we see on a regular basis at the park are willing to play with him too.
I kept thinking about how mean children can be and wondered why all kids can’t be friends. They’re too young to really be influenced by differences in race, religion, politics, socioeconomic status, sex, and everything else that adults base their prejudices on.
When I assumed that I’d never encountered such a situation when I was a kid, I actually thought back to my childhood and realized I have. I’ve been the kid who rejected other kids, and I’ve been the rejected one. I don’t know why we did it, but chances are that we’ve all been on one or both ends of the stick. And the ironic thing is that I don’t remember it being that bad. It sucks to get rejected by other kids, but I got over it. I feel far worse for the times I didn’t include a lonely kid.
The article I read in Parents, talked about how we can’t control these situations when they happen and we just have to deal with it. More importantly, it’s necessary for our kids to experience failure, heartache, pain, and all the other bad stuff we don’t want them to feel because that’s how they grow and it’s healthier for their future ability to cope with hardship. And let’s face it, suffering your child’s heartaches is a hardship that all parents have to cope with. All we can do is be waiting with arms wide open when they want to come crying to us and seeking advice.