Sidewalk Re-starts

snow days

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?”

“OK Mommy.”

“How was your day at school?”

“Good but I’m tired.”

“Me too. How do you want to walk home?”


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  1. says

    <3 This is beautiful, and true, and just made me get misty (and I'm not even a Mom).

    I have an awesome Mother myself, but that didn't stop me from wanting you to come sweep me up, tell me everything would be OK, and that we'll use our eyes and ears to make each other feel better when things get overwhelming… :)
    Holly @ Run With Holly recently posted..Chinese New Year 2014, Day -1My Profile

  2. says

    I had a very similar experience like this yesterday with my son. Sitting down and just letting him get it all out before I can give him a hug and start over is what it takes some days. A hug usually melts away the tension and gives us the moment to start fresh. Beautiful post, Christine!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..My Happy SweatMy Profile

  3. says

    This is one of my favorite things you’ve ever written! You convey your son’s feelings beautifully, and, BRAVO, for sitting down on the sidewalk and really listening to him. There are many times when my daughters need a reset, but I rush through the moment. It takes patience, wisdom, and humility to do what you did. Thanks for being an incredible example to us and for sharing! LOVE! <3
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted..Business Travel Bingo (Guest Post)My Profile

  4. says

    This is so lovely. So often I see parents in the same situation – and of course find myself in it as well – and I always pray for the grace to do just what you did. It’s hard but so important and worth it. You are one brave mama.
    Tricia recently posted..Lovely little things, 3My Profile

  5. says

    Oh my, all parents can relate to this, and you handled it beautifully! We’re part of a 3 session active parenting class, and it’s been so helpful to step back and look at how we typically handle things and how they may be perceived by the child. So glad he melted into the hug and felt better!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..NJ Trail Winter Race RecapMy Profile

  6. says

    This put a big grin on my face. Nice parenting, Christine! It’s so hard to disengage from the rising storm and take a step back…but so well worth it. I’m going to remember this the next time my daughter starts to boil over, which will likely be this afternoon since she went to a sleepover on Sat. night and stayed up late last night too!
    misszippy recently posted..Winter of discontentMy Profile

  7. says

    Thanks for the reminder, Christine. It can be easy to rush our little ones, or to trivialize their feelings. But it’s so important not to. I love the picture. I can just sense how they’re feeling about that snow!
    Shana Norris recently posted..Weekly Menu Plan.My Profile

  8. says

    Sometimes I wish we adults could better communicate the “Make. Me. Feel. Better!” And that it would work so swiftly and sweetly.
    I have days like this in which I sit and let her rail against me and the world. It’s usually fast. And then I have days in which I don’t handle it right, or I’m impatient, and the screaming turns into her kicking the air as I force her into a carseat.
    I love when it works like this.
    Tamara recently posted..On Planes & Monorail Trains.My Profile

  9. says

    There are so many times when I just want to get done what I need to get done and I feel like I don’t have time to listen or argue. But, on occasion, I’ll take the long way and do what they want and it makes all the difference. It’s amazing what just about 5 minutes can accomplish. Such a sweet story, Christine.
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  10. says

    Reading this elicted such an interesting response. I almost cried. it just brought about such an emotional response. sometimes you just have to re-start, start fresh, do-over that moment, and move forward. beautifully written, friend, and you always amaze me at your a-ha moments and how perfectly timed they are to the ones I need to read and also experience for myself. the restart. I need that more often than I’d care to admit. xoxo.
    Jolene recently posted..After a crazy week, it’s just okay.My Profile

  11. says

    Oh….I think your little one said exactly what I want to scream some days – Make. Me. Feel. Better!!!!!
    I’m so happy that you were able to just sit and listen and then hug and truly make him feel better.
    Isn’t it funny (in an ironic kind of way) how that plea never changes – just the way we go about expressing our need.
    Thank you so much for sharing this story – even though it is from a parenting perspective I think that we can all benefit from actually finding the way to let someone know that we are struggling and need help feeling better.

  12. says

    Oh Christine. I love this, and feel for you, and for your little guy.
    My little one is big into cuddling me. When he needs comfort, it’s me he looks for.
    I can’t say I don’t love it and enjoy it. That I’m doing something only Mama can do- make it better.
    You’re a great Mom, my friend.
    Alison recently posted..A Friend in FranceMy Profile


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