I happened to walk outside the other day onto our patio. I don’t know what led me out there…maybe an inkling that something was not quite right. I didn’t hear the kids playing outside like I normally do.
That’s when I saw it. My son. Standing outside his friend’s house looking through the window, while the friend and another neighborhood boy were playing inside. The crestfallen look on my boy’s face, broke this momma’s heart.
There he stood, in his hand me down Tae-kwon-Do uniform. He likes to pretend he’s Luke SkyWalker, so he can be like the other boys and play StarWars. He really likes to play Transformers, but one of the boys doesn’t like that, so they play what he wants to play. My boy doesn’t care…as long as he gets to play.
“Boy!” I say. “What are you doing?”
He turns and looks at me, his big brown eyes sad, with tears shimmering on the surface. “Nothing.”
“Where are the other two?” I ask.
His head drops a bit and he looks back through the window. “Inside.”
“Why are you not inside too?”
He shrugs non-committally. “I don’t know.” he hangs his head again and scuffs his foot into the dirt. “They didn’t ask me to.”
I can feel the rapid pulse in my chest and the constriction. Ah, dear sweet boy…kids can be cruel. I tell him to come home, but he refuses. I cannot stand to see him there, looking forlornly through the window as the boys inside literally play right where he can see them. I order him to come talk to me in the front of our house.
As he starts to leave, the boys try to sneak out of their house so they can run to the upstairs portion and go back inside. My boy sees them and the tears come in earnest. He even starts to walk to me, then walks over to the other portion of the house and looks through the window again.
“Come home, son.” I tell him. He’s bawling by the time he reaches me.
I hold him tenderly in my arms and tell him to stop crying. It’s not worth crying over. He’s only 5 years old and doesn’t get why his “friends” who are 3 years older than him, don’t want to let him play with them.
Then I remind him to remember what “this” feels like…and to never do it to someone else. It’s a hard lesson for him to learn. Kids are mean. They are rude and they don’t care…unless YOU as the parent, make them care.
The situation reminds me of my own childhood. I was that kid standing outside my “friends” house…looking in the window, waiting for the other kids to invite me inside. They never did. I was good enough to play with when the other kids were not home, but I was not good enough when they did come home.
I remember my mother telling me to forget about it; to just go play by myself; to find someone else to play with. Who? I would think. Who else is there? I would hide for days in my room after my chores were done…not playing with anyone…until the vicious cycle started again. I would ride my bike by myself…get lost in the woods and play in the creek, pretending to be a lost princess without a home or friends or family. Yes, I learned to create something out of nothing…but I didn’t want to.
I wanted to belong…sigh…I still do.
My son is tender-hearted. I don’t want him to lose that…but…I don’t want him to be a doormat either. As he gets older, I want him to be empathetic, but I also want him to not compromise his faith or beliefs just to fit in. We have certain rules…we are given certain rules by our Creator. I think it is best said in the Wisdom of Ben Sira Chapter 6:7-8 (New American Bible)
“When you gain friends, gain them through testing, and do not be quick to trust them. For there are friends when it suits them, but they will not be around in time of trouble.”
Oh sweet boy…you have so much to learn…as do I.