A Lesson in Parenting
So lately the play yard at school has been a complicated place for Kai…and for me.
He is in this crew of four boys on the preschool yard who are all bright, fun, friendly and outgoing. They are a little troop full of energy and curiosity and games…but unfortunately, not so full of interest in any of the other kids in their class.
It’s come as quite a little shock to me that I am dealing with these “clique” issues with my four-year-old boy and not my seven-year-old girl, but that’s parenthood for you. Full of surprises.
It’s not a terrible thing, to have good friends he can count on every day. To have friends with common interests who wait for you with anticipation every morning and hug you goodbye every afternoon.
But I started to notice him shunning the idea of branching out beyond this little foursome and I didn’t love what I was seeing.
I asked him the other day about various other kids in his class.
“Are you friends with E?” I asked. “Not really,” he replied. “She only wants to play princesses.”
“Do you ever play with S?” I wondered. “Maybe sometimes,” he muttered.
“How about T?” I inquired, referring to one little boy, in particular, who seems to have a shy sensibility and a little bit of introvert in him.
“No, mama!” he laughed. “I don’t play with him. He wears glasses!”
My heart fell.
Is my sweet, good-natured, bright little boy…one of those kids??
“I wear glasses!” I responded promptly. “Does that mean you won’t play with me??”
He giggled in his sweet, good-natured, bright little way.
I sent him back to school the next day with a mission. To find some way to play with T. He could sit with him at lunch, ask him to hit the sandbox during lunchtime, choose the same activity as him during free play. I wanted him to find some way to be a friend to T – and most importantly, to have fun with him.
He went on his way and I went and took out my contacts and replaced them with my glasses.
A few days later, a mom friend came up to me on the yard at pick up and told me she had the funniest story about Kai.
“I was standing by the sandbox the other day and he was playing with this little boy and he said hi to me and told me he was playing with him because his mom told him he had to,” she laughed.
My heart fell. As did the expression on my face.
“No, no,” she said, reassuringly. “It was really sweet, actually. Once he said that, he went on to say they were making sand pies and T’s favorite pie is blueberry and his is chocolate and they are opening a pie shop and they made me some sand pie. And trust me, T didn’t seem to care or notice at all. He was just happy making pies with his new friend.”
I thanked her for sharing, still blushing with embarrassment.
He had listened to me. He had definitely listened to me and he had done what I asked. But neither one of us really understood what I was saying, I soon realized.
He understood that it was a task I had assigned to him. He completed the task and he went on with his day. He returned the next day to the comfort of his little crew.
I was trying to get him to embrace something new. To extend his outgoing, fun nature to someone who could probably use a little sprinkle of it in his day. To look beyond the glasses.
I don’t think he has really played with T again since that day.
And I haven’t asked him to.
Because even though he listened and he did as he was told, he didn’t really understand the importance of it. He didn’t really understand the impact he may (or may not) have been making on that boy.
And that’s probably ok because he is four. He is only four.
I have plenty of years ahead of me to teach him right from wrong. To show him how to embrace the introverts. To get him to look past those glasses and see people for who they really are.
And I will. I will teach him.
But in the meantime, I am sure that for that one day, those sand pies were some of the best ones that little T has ever made.
And maybe for now, that’s enough.