Posted on | November 3, 2014 | 7 Comments
This year, J and I were invited to a friends’ house for a Halloween party. We raced home from work and over to another neighborhood to get in a little trick or treating before the party, then raced over to the party. These weren’t new friends… J has known both the boys since they were little 8 week old newborns together in daycare. We’ve been fortunate to maintain a friendship with all the boys (and their parents) that he attended daycare with, even though pretty much all of them go to different schools at this point.
But I digress, the point is… J knows these kids. They’ve been friends for their whole lives. We walked into the house and immediately there were “boy” sounds: loud crashes, screams, fighting zombies… the usual. The parents congregated around the dining room table where our hostess had set a lovely Halloween table complete with the required Halloween pizza and candy. We talked about our worries over schooling, our thoughts on our boys, the troubles they may or may not be getting into on a daily basis. And it was good to just be around people who get what it’s like to have a 5 year old boy.
As we sat there and talked, I kept an ear out for trouble, as we do as parents. These boys had been playing together for years so I didn’t foresee any problems, yet suddenly every hair on my body stood at attention and I zeroed in on the scenario playing out across the room.
“NO J. This is our secret spot just for us. You have to go somewhere else.” Hands were on hips, fingers were pointing. My son was standing, head cocked sideways, listening to these two boys tell him to go away.
Dear God. Was this happening? Was my sweet, tender, fun-loving child being left out in a group of only three? In a group of boys that he’s known for years? Was. This. Happening?
I waited, on the edge of my seat. I just knew I was going to have to intervene. I was going to have to remind them to play nice… remind them to include my child.
And then I watched J shrug.
“Okay!” He happily announced, and walked away. He picked up another toy and went about his business until the other two boys grew tired of each other and raced to find him again. He just… dealt with it.
Suddenly it occurred to me that at some point, you just have to let go and let your child face hardship on his own. I realized that it was my heart that was broken by the exclusion… not my son’s. And I was so very glad I hadn’t intervened… so glad that I hadn’t jumped up and made it into a big deal, made it into something J felt was wrong. Instead, I clenched my fists and waited and by doing so… I realized that there will always be kids who don’t want to play with him. (To their own detriment, obviously because he is AWESOME.) But more than that, I realized that he can handle it. He can handle being excluded.
This parenting gig is so very tough. It’s difficult to trust our children to make the right choices… to stand up for themselves when they need to stand up… and to stand down when it’s time to stand down. On Halloween, J showed more strength of character than I did. While I wanted to rush in and scream “NOT FAIR” he knew that time would settle their differences and bring them all back together again.
So once again, I find that parenting J is just as much of a lesson for me as it is for my him.