If You Mess With the Cub...

>> Saturday, March 20, 2010

You get the mama bear. Or so the saying goes...

With some minor exceptions, the weather in Chicagoland this week has been amazing. Sunny, warm enough that a sweatshirt or light coat is all you need, blue skies... perfect park weather. Especially when you have two toddler boys who have been cooped up all winter. So we spent a lot of time at the park the last few days.
During one such outing to the park, I witnessed something for the first, but surely not the last, time. There was a little boy at the park when we got there who quickly came up to Lucas, introduced himself, and wanted to play. Lucas was shy at first but eventually warmed up and the two began chasing each other around the playground, laughing and having tons of fun. The boy was a bit older (6, I think) and his mom was quite a bit older than me (I actually thought she was his grandmother until I heard him call her Mom). This boy seemed happy to have a playmate since, as his mother explained to me, he is an only child and craves social interaction. Lucas and this boy played quite contently together... until.

Until another little girl arrived at the park. She was older too, probably closer to this other boy's age. She came over to the two boys and began playing their game. As soon as she joined in, this other little boy teamed up with her and turned the game on Lucas. Where before, the two boys were playing together, the game now became this boy and his new friend running around to "get away from Lucas." He wasn't that much the wiser. It was still a game of running around and having fun to him. But this mama bear was not happy about the whole situation.
It bothered me to watch these kids gang up on Lucas, even if it was all in play. This boy who was all excited to play with Lucas quickly moved on when a girl more his age arrived on the scene. Several times, I saw Lucas looking around, trying to find his "friends." Then when he would see them, he would say "Hey, I have been looking for you guys" and they would say "He found us!" and run away. Lucas would run after them, squealing and laughing, seeming to still be enjoying the game.
Every fiber of my mama's-heart wanted to go grab this kid by the shirt collar and scold him for being so fickle. Don't trick my baby into thinking you want to play with him only to turn on him when a better playmate comes along!! I kept my mouth shut, barely, and stayed with Caden on the slide no matter how much I wanted to intervene.

This was my first glimpse into a world I cannot control for him. For so long, he has been this shadow by my side. Either I was his playmate or I picked his playmate (ie: the kids of my friends). And now, he is striking up games of tag with random kids at the park and they are not always nice kids. And this time, I don't think he fully realized that he was being excluded or that he was put aside when a better offer came along. But next time he might, and that will break my heart.
I felt sad watching him chase after these kids, like he was being treated unkindly and there was nothing I could do about it. Truthfully, it was all a big game and they were probably not trying to be mean to him. But they weren't exactly trying to include him either. I just wanted to go scoop him up and hug him and tell him what a fabulous kid he is. I wanted to say, "Those kids may not appreciate you but I think you are the greatest person in the whole world." But I didn't. Well, I did when it was time to go. I hugged him and told him I loved him and that I was glad he found some friends to play with at the park. I didn't want my feelings to rub off on him since he was still having fun through it all.

My baby, my shadow, is turning 4 this week. Aside from a brief issue (which is quickly resolving) at karate, I think it is really me that has the separation anxiety. I am afraid to set him off into this crazy world that I cannot control and that may not always treat him as I think he should be treated. I am concerned for his tender heart and for my own. But as much as I want to keep him under the shelter of my mama-bear's paw, I know I have to let him be his own little cub. That being said, if those kids had actually said anything mean or taken their little game any further, you better believe they would have felt the wrath of this mama bear. It was all I could do to contain myself as it was. But, somewhere deep down I knew I had to let him play the game and just keep a watchful-eye from close by. Something tells me that is going to be my role for awhile: the mama bear, watching from the near-by bush, letting the cub explore and learn about his world on his own. But always close enough to pounce in danger or scoop him up when needed.

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TwoSquareMeals March 20, 2010 at 9:50 PM  

Calvin is so incredibly bad at social situations and wants so much to fit in. It has been really hard for me to step back and let him just be himself and learn how to navigate the world. Trusting that God knows how he made my kids and will walk through them in this growing up process is hard! I want to control it all but know that would not be the right thing for them. These hard things help make them who they are. But I am right there with ya, momma bear!

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Anonymous June 1, 2010 at 11:27 AM  

I think in large part the reason they ganged up on him is because he has shorter legs. The older kids couldn't win against eachother, but the the both of them could beat your son. That being said, kids will almost always opt for children their own age as playmates. If another 4 year old had shown up you might have found yourself shocked at your own sons behavior.

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