…are small, even childlike, but they hold great weight: my fragile son.
At a churchwide picnic earlier this week, my heart dropped when I saw my son’s body, seemingly lifeless, fall through the air. I was making friendly parent conversation and my favorite toddler, up until that moment, was enjoying adventures on a large inflatable.
Somewhere in the endless plastic, my son cried out for me. When I finally extracted him from the bottom of the partially deflated slide, I embraced a trembling shell of my little boy.
One of the hardest things about parenthood is restraint. You can’t be everyone’s mother or moral police officer.
Because my son isn’t yet three-years-old, I try to be physically close to his playtime activities, especially those in public, while giving him the freedom to explore and make decisions without Mommy Helicopter hovering. I had observed three rambunctious little boys at the top of the slide several minutes before the incident, but I chose not to stop the likely outcome. In my heart, I knew that this lesson in adversity was important for my son to learn.
I think young boys need to physically manipulate their world, and with our own son we embrace playful roughhousing – to a limit, of course. At this community event, my son discovered that other households (and parents) have different rules, and sometimes those differences can harm.
Even though in this circumstance I was only responsible for my son, I am called, as his mother, to be his biggest advocate. I locked eyes with the guiltiest little boy of the bunch.
“Did you push my son?” The mommy dragon roars.
“No, no, I didn’t do it! He pushed him.” And with that, he pointed to the sea of children waiting below the slide’s ladder.
As a parent, sometimes the most gratifying feeling of all is the out-of-line child’s expression when he or she realizes their action had an undesirable consequence.
In a perfect world, our children forget all the ways that the world hurts them. This time, I wasn’t so lucky.
“That boy pushed me down the slide in the jumping house.”
The words penetrated my soul during bath time just a few hours later. I didn’t know what to say. How could I bring healing? Before I could offer a response, his blue eyes rendered my lips still.
“But I’m okay.” The toddler, again, for the win.
And yet, all of this left me with an important answer to an age-old question: How do you handle a bully?
My best solution: Don’t let your child become one.