Friday, July 16, 2010

The Life Lesson of Rejection

It was a beautiful sunny day. We were playing at the park with our weekly playgroup consisting of kids covering a wide range of ages. There was swinging and picnic lunches and playing ball and grass stains. The big kids (those older than 3 to 4 years old) were off in the field, doing whatever it is big kids do. The little kids were playing at the playground. Us Mom's gathered strategically throughout, there to help the little one's up the ladder or down the slide. Our photographer Mama's were capturing it all on film, so we can remember these precious times, when are kids are carefree and courageous, and growing up before our very eyes.

My son, Jonah just turned 3 last week. Three years has flown by ever so fast, like a whirlwind of daily ordinary and extra-ordinary events. I remember some key moments, but most of it has blown right over my head, as I conquer each and every day as it presents itself. Mothering 2 little ones isn't easy at times, but these are times I wouldn't change for the world. It's days like this gorgeous day at the park that I will remember forever. The sunshine, the breeze, the life lessons.

You see, Jonah is doing what most 3 year olds do. He spent the first year or two of his life sticking close by my side. Scary, overwhelming events, like today's play date, would have set him off. I'm not sure if it's him getting older that had made him more independent, or the introduction of his little sister, but either way, today was the first time he showed me that he was okay doing things on his own.

Along with his heightened independence has come the realization that the challenges of childhood are upon us, or more so, him.

Jonah fits right in the middle of the "Little Kids" group, he's not the oldest, but not the youngest. He gets along well with his "friends", but desires to be among the "Big Kids", a group of 3 older boys who get to play a little further away, do more daring tricks, and play more unsupervised. When they run off, he runs off. When they jump off of a high part of the play ground equipment, he gets RIGHT to the edge, before I have to stop him. He wants to climb on the harder parts of the playground, and run the fields, following the footsteps of the "Big Kids". I sometimes let him go a little further than I would normally, but more often I call him back. While simultaneously feeling guilty for not letting him be adventurous like I know he wants to.

I told him today he couldn't go to the bleachers that were far away, he had to play on the one's closer to where I was, and where the Big Boys were playing. A minute later, the Big Boys ran off to the further away bleachers. And Jonah being a good boy, he stayed, sitting on the lowest bench (because I told him he couldn't go up to the top where the Big Boys were) and watched them run off. I know they didn't do it to hurt him. I'm sure they aren't too keen on a 3 year old hanging around them. I don't blame them a bit. But in that very moment, I felt my heart sink to my stomach. I could see in his eyes he wanted to go with.

There it was.

My son's first taste of rejection.

I just looked at him for a second, wondering if I weren't so overprotective, would I have "protected" him from feeling this?

Ironic, huh?

I quickly shoo-ed him over to the playground, and within a few seconds, he was climbing and running, and most likely had forgotten what just happened. But it stuck with me. And now, hours later, it's still here. In the pit of my stomach. I know these occurrences will happen more and more as he grows up. He will feel rejected, over and over and over; whether it is if he doesn't make the basketball team, the girl he has a crush on goes out with another boy, or his best friend betrays him; it is going to happen. And I can't protect him from it all. I just have to be here to catch him when he falls.

But boy, when he falls, little will he know, I will fall even harder.

Originally posted to Chicago Moms Blog on April 6, 2010.

You can often find Jen stressing about the daily in's-and'-out's of mommying over on Twitter and at her personal blog, Mommy Instincts.

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