Mornings have been a struggle lately. We go back and forth with this, but lately it seems to be much harder than usual. Zach just doesn’t like to get up. Once he’s up, he doesn’t like to get dressed. Once he’s dressed, he doesn’t want to leave. When we finally make it to day care, he doesn’t want to get out of the car. I always get some resistance from him, but today was really hard.
This morning it took nearly 30 minutes just to get him out of bed. Evie was being clingy so I only had one hand to work with, and couldn’t do much but pester him to get up. Once he was finally up and we went through the whole getting dressed process he told me he didn’t want to go to day care. We had our usual talk about how he has to go to day care so Mommy and Daddy can work, etc. but he still wasn’t budging. Finally the real issue came out.
“K told me he doesn’t want to play with me any more,” he says with the saddest face I’ve ever seen. “He says I’m not a nice friend and he won’t play with me.”
My heart totally sank.
I heard a little of this going on the week before but dismissed it thinking it would all blow over but apparently it stuck with him. My mama bear instincts wanted to just sweep him up, give him a big hug, and tell him it would all be all right (and to tell K that he was a big meanie). But, my parenting instincts told me that this was a teaching moment and I needed to find just the right words to teach him how to deal with people that hurt his feelings.
I did give him a big hug and raced through what I should say in my head. I explained to him that sometimes even your friends will say things that hurt your feelings. Sometimes they are just mad and don’t really mean it, but sometimes they do it because you have done something that hurt their feelings first. I suggested to him that if K does this again, maybe he could just go play with someone else for a while until K is ready to play with him again. We talked a little about how he needed to make sure he was being a nice friend as well so his friends would want to play with him. And of course, if they can’t solve it themselves then he can always ask a grown-up to help. I want him to learn how to deal with things like this on his own, because God knows this won’t be the last conflict that comes along. This is so minor compared to the things he’ll have to deal with in the future.
The hard part is that K is the closest one to Zach’s age at day care. The other kids are quite a bit younger, which is why Zach gravitates toward K most of the time. It is a small home day care, so there aren’t a lot of options. When they’re both happy they have a great time together. But, K plays more violently, obviously watches some more grown-up things on TV, and has the attitude to go with it. Even though he’s just a few months older than Zach, he definitely seems much older and Zach looks up to him in a way. Zach, however, is the kid that wants to play the tough guy but is really quite sensitive underneath. He was totally crushed that K didn’t want to play with him.
I’m guessing that this whole thing was weighing on him all weekend. He had kind of a rough weekend overall and I feel bad that I didn’t pick up on it and ask him what was going on. I just assumed he was being obstinate on purpose. We grow up in this society that tells us that boys are tough and don’t have feelings but seeing my 3-year-old boy so distraught over the snub of a friend brought me back to reality real quick. I’m just as guilty as anybody else of forgetting boys have feelings too (just ask my husband).
Zach is growing up so fast. He’ll be four years old next month. He wants to be so independent. Most days I look at him and I see this big boy that can do nearly anything he puts his mind to. Other days, like today, I look at him and see the tiny little baby I gave birth to and I want to hold in my arms and keep him there forever. That’s the only place I can truly protect him.