There is nothing worse than when you greet your child after school and you see that something has hurt them to the point of tears.
The tightness in your chest, the ache in your heart, the anger in your bones, the feeling of helplessness, and the lump in your throat, choking back your own tears as you listen and try to comfort them.
Sometimes it’s something big; sometimes it’s something small. And sometimes you just want to line up the little shits at school that hurt your baby and spray them down with a jet-powered garden hose.
My 8-year-old son came home from school with tears welled up in his eyes. He had worked really hard on a class project, and his presentation didn’t go as planned. The assignment was to build a monument or landmark with items from home. He chose the Statue of Liberty and got to work on it right away, meticulously sifting through our LEGO box for just the right pieces in the right color, and making sure to make seven points on the crown like the real thing.
It was smaller in size because we didn’t have a lot of the right colors for it, and he wanted to make it easy to get to school, on and off the school bus. He was very proud of it and he did it all himself from memory without using a picture. He loves to build and create things, so this was right up his alley.
He took it to school and a lot of the kids made fun of it when he put it in the hallway next to the others. It was too small, the crown was too big, the proportions weren’t just so. He told me about it when he got home with a quivering voice and tears in his eyes.
I wanted to die. To me, it was the best Statue of Liberty in the world. I saw the effort and enthusiasm behind the making of it, and it broke my heart that it went this way.
This is the part I worry about. When it’s other kids that make fun of something they were proud of and enjoyed making. Is this when they start to doubt themselves and lose enthusiasm for their passions? Is this where the seed is planted that they just don’t measure up?
To make matters worse, on that same day their usual school bus was in for repairs, so he rode a different bus home with a different driver where they didn’t have assigned seats. He chose to sit with a new friend, and the boy he usually sits with got mad and said they couldn’t be friends anymore.
It’s a jungle out there, man. This is just second grade, and kids can be so mean. It makes you want to just tuck them away at home and hide them from the world forever.
I know that in life we need to face hard things and I can’t shield him from everything. I want him to know how to resolve conflicts. But it seems like this world is just chewing them up and spitting them out at younger and younger ages.
And sadly in the big picture, this day is likely just the tip of the iceberg. I think the hurts get deeper the older they get. I remember my own middle school days when we didn’t even have social media yet. But regardless of how old they are, elementary up through high school and beyond, they are still your baby when they come home crying. And you would give anything to make those hurts go away and stay away for good.
We let them fight their own battles when appropriate, and intervene when appropriate. They have to know we will stand up and fight for them, but they also need to be able to stand up for themselves and stand on their own.
And though we have vengeance in our hearts for their well being, we try our best to teach them acceptance, compassion, and understanding to stop the cycle.
One of the hardest parts of parenthood is watching them hurt. We pick them up, dust them off, encourage and empower them the best we can, pour love into them, and send them back out there to fight another day. We have to. Because as fun as it is to think about, we can’t mow everyone down with a jet-powered garden hose.More On