He had a bad day. I could see it on his face as he walked off the bus.
“How was your day?” I asked.
“I don’t want to talk about that.”
So I let it go.
Then when he was ready he cracked wide open and told me about the things that were bothering him.
I said that they would bother me too. That I experienced some of those things, and that they taught me compassion for others and clarified who I wanted to be.
Some things we don’t think about until they happen to us.
Then I helped him come up with strategies for next time.
Sometimes kids tease because they are teased. It is not nice or right, but their parents value toughness and thick skin over compassion. We value compassion over thick skin. So things that seem normal to some kids seem cruel to ours, even if they are far from bullying.
Children repeat how they are treated.
So the child who is told not to be a crybaby will tell other crying children the same thing. Not out of malice, but because this is the response that he has learned.
We talk about safe places and true friends. About the difference between family and aquaintances.
We talk about how he feels in the moment where he says or does similar things to his brother or sister. About honesty and about kindness. About finding out more about ideas before dismissing them. About how to present an idea that you want people to listen to. About making sure to listen to the ideas of others because very few people are open to listening to people that don’t listen to them.
Long slow conversation that took many turns as he tried to piece things together in his head, gave me more examples of situations. Asked me what-ifs.
He was too fragile to be nice to anyone, so I made sure that he had space, books, his bed. Calm. He chose to accept this retreat I offered, and I checked in constantly offering head rubs and shoulder hugs.
Then later that night dad put the little ones to bed and we spent time in the big overstuffed chair in the library reading some books together and snuggling.
He had been building up all the little stresses for some time before he boiled over.
He went to sleep happy, loved and at peace.
I could have gotten angry about the negative things he was doing and his short fuse. I could have felt manipulated by his tears of frustration when he was unable to quickly and easily complete a task he does each day.