When your child comes home with one of those little daggers in her heart — or you sense the threat of one — parental instincts move into overdrive.
One time while she was in Pre-K, our daughter had spent a great deal of time at home drawing and coloring four unique pictures for four of her friends. She talked excitedly as she worked on each, how it reflected the person, and how happy her friend would be upon receiving it.
Panicked-Dad syndrome. She’s bringing the pictures to school. Suddenly I’m in her shoes, in her classroom, and there’s one of the pictures crumpled up on the floor of the coatroom. She would break down, cry, and never trust anyone again.
That morning, I went in to speak with her teacher, and explained the situation and my fears. The teacher assured me she understood.
All day I watched the clock, imagining her little heart broken by the callous indifference of her so-called friends.
“They liked them.”
I believe we tend to transpose our own values, the ones we recognize and trade in the adult world and based on our own youth, on what is playing out on childhood’s landscape. We then want to employ adult solutions, since grown-ups are all so brilliant and never needed to ever learn from any mistakes we made, since we made none.
When our daughter stepped off the school bus Tuesday afternoon, I knew something was bothering her. It takes no special talent to perceive that. She is emotionally transparent — again a gift, but one with a terrifically sharp learning curve.
The giveaway: She wasn’t smiling.
As soon as we reached the sidewalk across the street from the bus stop, I stopped so we could talk.
“Not now, Daddy,” she said, staring down at her feet.
This is the youngster who always answers my “How was your day?” question with a “Grrreat!” that rivals Baby Boomer icon Tony the Tiger,
“I’ll tell you when we get home, Daddy.”
We have a 5-minute walk but I knew better than to wait. Barely a half-block from the bus stop, we halted.
In retrospect, I should’ve see this coming. (Apparently, second-guessing matters such as this is another parenting skill.)
Yesterday, she was bouncing-off-the-walls happy about a new spy game/club she and her friends had started to play during recess.
Then, today, a split developed, a castle coup and usurpment over who was making the rules and calling the shots.
There had been tears, frustration, confusion. She was crushed something like this could happen, with so little regard for her feelings. I tried to soothe her, but I didn’t want to worsen matters.
“Don’t tell Mommy,” she begged.
I didn’t need to worry about that. An hour later, Mom heard it all.
Then, Mom nudged the 7-year-old and pried loose a re-cap of the whole day.
It was the day of the class field trip to a buffet and ‘kids’ play, and she wore a new black velvet dress with a small peace sign pendant. Simply beautiful.
She made “nine” trips to the buffet, mainly for Jello and cupcakes. The show was great.
Before leaving on the trip, a classmate asked her to accompany her on a “breakfast with the Principal” invitation. The other student ate; our daughter, who had breakfast before school, spent the time dancing with Principal/Ms. Hawk. Later that morning, when her classroom teacher had to step out for a few minutes prior to the class boarding the bus, she handed over the teacher’s daily read-aloud book and asked our daughter to read to the class. Then, on the trip, she was assigned to a small group of kids who could be trusted without a hands-on chaperone.
An incredibly good day — outstanding, really — until you add that 20-or-so minutes of recess the kids got when they came back to school from the trip. That memory, the pain she felt from what some adults could easily dismiss as a minor blip, vaulted to the top and front. Pain trumps pleasure, in the sensitive mind of a 7-year-old.
The next morning, after counsel and coaching from Mom, our daughter went to school and made the first move, at the start of the day, to crafting a spy game/club compromise with a classmate. Egos were soothed. Feathers were unruffled. A new plan was made for recess later that day, fair by all standards.
That afternoon, off the bus:
Well, what happened during recess? How did it go?
“Ï forgot that I had already told someone else I was going to play with her at recess, so the two of us went and played together.”
What about … ?