My heart crumbled when I watched the older boy shove him down, grab his toy, and run away with the other children. My son’s lip puffed out, then was immediately sucked in and bit down on as he balled up his tiny body and fought back tears. I rushed over to him as I pushed down my own ball of tears lodging itself in my throat.
I wrapped my arms around my son and rocked him, feeling so helpless and triggered by my own memories of rejection.
Then, the little boy who had pushed him down returned, handed my son his toy and asked him if he wanted to kick a ball. My tiny man hopped up smiling and ran after the boy howling the toddler cry-of-joy.
I stayed on the grass, continuing to rock myself.
I felt the all-consuming blow of rejection and bullying so deeply as an adolescent that my energy still courses with an undercurrent of fear of dismissal. I’m really bad at being disliked or brushed-off by friends. Being a writer and past actor have made me proficient at receiving general rejection, but the turned back of someone I know breaks me.
Because I’m an adult who typically surrounds myself with pretty rad and compassionate people, I rarely experience personal snubs — that is until my child turned into a toddler who enjoys being around other children. And I’m not referring to “mean mommy war” stuff, I’m talking “being so connected to my child’s emotions I feel them as my own” stuff.
When he’s being shoved, yelled at, or left behind, I get light-headed, while a metaphorical wrench goes to town on my guts.
When he’s the one shoving, yelling, or leaving someone behind, I feel like I can’t apologize enough to the “victim” and go overboard attempting to rectify the situation.
I’m aware this is all “my own stuff.” Kids shove, yell, and leave their peeps behind — it’s their thing. It’s all natural, even normal, but it triggers something very adverse in me.
What is triggered is not anger or frustration towards the children rejecting my son, and I don’t feel anger towards my son when he’s the “aggressor.” Instead, a resurgence of all the insecurity and sadness I experienced as a 13-year-old girl being shamed by close friends in front of a packed football stadium bubbles up.
That’s right, I experienced the classic humiliation featured in teen movies and I’ve never fully worked past it. The moment of being rejected by seven of my closest friends, all at once, planted a seed of timidity and shame deep down in my vulnerable subconscious mind that has since been layered under mounds of “brave” pretense mixed with forced social interaction. I love people, I’m just scared of being discarded by them.
I allow myself to be so triggered by the normal interactions of young children that I’ve noticed my nervous energy being transferred to my son. Recently, the time it takes him to “brush off” benevolent, innocent, and temporary rejection has begun to stretch out. He looks to me each time he experiences a social slight, and while I force myself to smile and serve up a trite, “It’s OK, we’ll work it out,” he soaks in my energy. And my energy in that moment is very unstable — it’s crying for that young girl who has not yet worked through her stagnant insecurities and past affronts.
I’m so over it.
The love of my child has finally opened my eyes to the damaged pieces of my confidence that need a heaping dose of super glue, and TLC for good measure. My super-adhesive TLC has come to me in the form of Hypnotherapy, journaling, and open communication with my son.
The Hypnotherapy has helped open up my nervous subconscious mind and let in the light (and truth) of who I actually am.
The journaling has allowed me to relive (from a safe distance) the moment when the damaging seed was planted, and see it for what it really was — a bunch of insecure girls taking out their fears on another insecure girl, because none of us knew any better.
And the open communication with my son serves to create a safe space for us to explore the uncomfortable aspects of human interaction so he (and I!) can be better equipped to objectively process it, without long-term wounds being left in our vulnerable selves.
Whoa man, this parenting thing is hard — parenting my child, and my self.