Sometimes it is physically painful to me to watch my boys learn the tough life lessons. Feelings that seem second nature to us as adults were often learned through heartache and confusion when we were small, and seeing my big four and a half year old struggle through learning these same lessons is so hard. I am proud and sad at the same time, which occasionally makes me wish I was one of those people who could just turn off my feelings. You know the kind- very little bothers them, life's lessons are just that, lessons, and certainly nothing to be feeling anything at all about. But I am not one of those people. When I was a young driver I hit a bunny on one of the winding country roads that surrounded my childhood home. When I got home I remember being so upset as I recounted the story to my mother, and I will never forget what my older sister said. "You know, that bunny probably just hopped off into the woods to die- you probably should have just backed over it again and killed it right then, to put it out of it's misery."
Now, my sister didn't believe this. She wasn't a masochistic bunny killer in her younger years. She was just being mean to her younger sister, a normal and favorite past time of older siblings around the world. But those words were devastating to me. The idea that that poor little injured bunny would drag itself into the woods to die stuck in my too sensitive brain for weeks after that day. And that is not the only snapshot of sadness I carry around. I have always been very sensitive and injustices, whether they happen to me or to someone else, have always stuck with me. Which makes it hard to watch my kids struggle to learn life's lessons. But I have to let them learn. I have to let them make their own mistakes.
Yesterday the day care/preschool held the Christmas parties for the children. Both of my boys' classes celebrated with a hot dog lunch, cookies, Jesus stickers, and a book gift exchange. I like the fact that the teachers ask for a book for the gift exchange and I took my time selecting age appropriate and fun books. My tiny toddler came home with a peek a boo type book featuring a dog, one of his favorite animals. Score! My four and half year old received a book that he likes, sure, but as he was telling me about his party in the car on the way home from school it was clear that there was another book that another child received that he would have preferred. He was sad as he told me about this other book, and I know it sounds crazy, but it broke my heart a little. He was well behaved during the party, he thanked his friend for the book he received and he didn't ask for the one he wanted. He understood that he couldn't have it. He learned a lesson about grace and thankfulness in a way that is so much better than me just explaining it to him.
But I learned a little lesson too. My big four and half year old's bubble of innocence is slowly starting to dissolve. He is aware of the news of the world. He knows that there was a "bad man" on the loose near his school once, over a year ago, and he still talks about that day every so often. He knows that something happened to the people of America before he was born that we remember every September and he went through a phase where all of his drawings included American flags for all those people who had "hurt loved ones". He has already lost his first grandparent and occasionally draws cemeteries, telling me that these are the stones we use to remember people. He still talks about his pet fish, Stewart, who swam away to the ocean through his bathroom sink. (don't judge me. we totally panicked when my husband accidentally poured the poor fish down the drain with the water from the fish bowl.)
He is such a sweet and loving little boy. I am not ready for that bubble to shatter completely. And I know, it will take time for that to happen. But he is going to be five years old in two months. He will start kindergarten next Fall. He will be riding the school bus and spending more time with older kids. I won't have as much control over his little world and who he interacts with, I won't be able to protect him as much as I do now. Which I am acutely aware of, and which made me want to drive my sweet little boy straight to the book store yesterday to buy him that book he really wanted. I didn't. But I really wanted to.