I was standing in the middle of the sidewalk, approximately 50 feet from the entrance to my son’s school. My son was standing a few feet from me, leaning over the handles of his Mini-Micro scooter with tears streaming down his cheeks and snot dribbling down his nose. He would not let me wipe his nose.
He stomped his feet as he protested the fact that I was not listening – that Mommy and Daddy never listen to him. His voice started to recede into my head like a tunnel of sound. I placed his backpack on the ground and sat down in the middle of the sidewalk.
I entered his school ten minutes prior and was greeted by a cheery and giddy little four-year old boy. I was pleasantly surprised by his greeting and let out a sigh. I let myself begin to anticipate a fun afternoon together. Out of the corner of my eye, I checked the list of those who napped during the day, expecting to see his name. It wasn’t there. We packed up his things and headed home.
We chatted about school and his friends until his mind suddenly remembered an injustice from that morning’s drop-off. We didn’t go the way that he wanted to walk to school. And that was all that it took for the pent up frustration to boil over.
I listened to him and let him talk. I tried to repeat what he said to show him that I was listening (isn’t that what the parenting books tell you to do?). But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to validate his feelings.
This wasn’t something that was going to blow over. This was about a bigger injustice in his life – about being the younger child, about not being heard or understood.
So I sat down on the sidewalk.
I didn’t get angry. I didn’t try to rush him along to spare me the embarrassment. I let him talk and cry as his classmates continued to leave school and walk past us – schoolmates looking back to see what was going on while parents and caregivers tried to keep their child moving forward and to give us space.
He screamed until he finally yelled, “Make.Me.Feel.Better!!”
That’s what it’s really about, isn’t it? Making each other feel better, loved, heard and respected.
I scooped him up and hugged him. I felt his body release tension immediately as he turned to rest his cheek on my shoulder.
We talked about how everyone gets frustrated and upset sometimes, especially when we don’t get enough rest. We talked about how Mommy gets upset too when I’m tired and don’t feel like anyone hears me.
“Like when you don’t have any coffee Mommy?”
“Yes Buddy. Like when Mommy doesn’t have any coffee. Let’s start over, OK? You and me? We’ll both start to use our words and our ears more and we’ll make each other feel better, OK?”
“How was your day at school?”
“Good but I’m tired.”
“Me too. How do you want to walk home?”
More Ways to Follow Love, Life, Surf