#empathyforthewin

We spent late afternoon playing at our local school park today. The bell rang, and the kids all spilled out onto the playground to get one last romp before March break. I watched my little man bravely approach child after child with creative ideas just pouring out of his body; looking up at the big kids’ faces and pleading that they set-up an ice cream store and that he’d like to order the mint chocolate chip, please. He joined their fast-paced games of chase and talked to them about his blue bike with real pedals. They slinked away or rolled their eyes; none in the mood to humour him.

He was rejected over and over and over again. He kept trying to make the play schemes work.  His actions and words made my chest ache with the knowledge that I will all-too-soon one day not be there to redirect him to a seemingly-friendlier (& younger!) child. I kept trying to divert his attention by helping him walk the balance beam. I kept reminding him that he was only 3; he just kept saying “No, I’m pretending to be 4 so they’ll play with me.”

He just kept trying.

Eventually the last of the children began to pack up and leave.  I stayed and helped him climb the spider web, try out the big swings. I wanted him to leave on a positive note, maybe understanding that he can happily play by himself, that he didn’t need those other kids to have fun anyway. My throat got tight and my eyes burned and I remembered that all-too-well-known feeling of being left out.

Then, we heard the sound of a young boy sobbing, and saw across the playground a child around age 8 crying on the bench. Beside him, his mother was on her phone texting. My little man threw his bike helmet to the ground and sprinted over to the boy, yelling: “What’s wrong little boy? Why are you crying?” I chased after my son and was about to tell him to leave the boy alone, that it was time to go, that we didn’t have the time, that they boy probably wanted to be left alone.  The crying boy’s mother looked up at us and said “He’s crying because his brother gets to have a playdate tonight, and he doesn’t.”

Grayson looked at the Mom, then looked at the boy who continued to sob.

Grayson took a few small quiet steps towards the boy, hands wringing in front of him. He bent his chest and face down towards the big boy, and softly spoke:

“Oh, don’t worry, big boy. You can play with me if you want. Anytime. I’ll play with you. Don’t be sad. We can play here next time, too.”

The boy stared at my little son. He stared, and stopped crying. He and his Mom then got up and walked to their car. I strapped the babe on to my back and started our walk home, following G as he climbed up on his strider and happily sped away.

~

My floors are so very crusty. Scooby Doo is on and today we had sugar at every meal.  My baby is almost one and I haven’t read him enough books or taken him swimming and he actually has no socks.  Crafting supplies lie in abandoned project piles, my old work clothes for my new job don’t fit and I am simply drowning in feelings of guilt and shame when I compare my expectations of myself with the real deal.

But then my first child, the life changer, blows me away with the kindness he has inside of him.  He may the loudest, busiest and most intense little guy many know but man, does he have a huge heart. After being rejected for over 2 hours, there he is in his grass-stained jogging pants with a dirty face showing such empathy its astounding.

When I ask him later, he tells me that he likes saying nice things to people.  I then remembered that he called me pretty yesterday, completely out of the blue.  Earlier this week he shook with absolutely panicked sobs when his brother fell and bumped his head.

Again and again he humbles me. He reminds me that despite my own perceived imperfections of myself and my parenting he is becoming this amazing little dude who genuinely cares for others with such depth, with such love; and that it’s empathy that is all that really matters, in the end.

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About Sarah Dhooge

Sarah Dhooge is a Momma, Speech-Language Pathologist, and is proud to be a part of The Momma Collective, supporting Mom Powered Pursuits across Canada.