Helping Your Child Through Hurt
Those 8-Year-Olds Broke My Heart
By: Shayna Englin
When I had my son, Caleb, I was scared to death of parenthood. I couldn’t imagine how I’d manage the sleeplessness (it was excruciating), how I’d tamp down my gag reflex to clean up after various bodily functions (just barely), and how I’d find the patience to make it through potty training (it’s even harder than it looks).
Somehow, we made it to the flip side of those things I feared most about being a parent. Caleb is an 8-year-old who goes to bed early, hasn’t needed any help with bodily functions in a very long while and is as functional as any adult when it comes to the restroom.
So now it’s chess games, ice cream and fun kids movies all around, right?
Well, yes. And no. It turns out the hardest thing so far—even harder than functioning on 30 minutes of sleep—is something I didn’t even know to be afraid of. The hardest act of parenting so far was consoling my little boy after he’d had his feelings, his pride and his lip wounded by his best friends. The challenge was helping him heal his first broken heart, and the process utterly shattered mine.
After-school playground games can sometimes veer toward the rough and tumble. Among the gaggle of parents who hang out and keep an eye on things, there’s general agreement that it’s nearly impossible to tell when the line between playing and fighting has been crossed, but that it inevitably does. This week, the line was crossed, and Caleb ended up the odd-man-out, picked on by the boys he’s played with for years.
The moms rushed in to break it up. I gave a stern talking to all involved (it’s de facto law on the playground— the first mom to arrive at the scene has the authority to lay down the law), and I took my sobbing kiddo home.
He cried for 30 minutes on my lap. He was angry, and called his friends names. He claimed he’d never talk to them again and ultimately put into 8-year-old sentiment that he was devastated. It was all I could do to not cry with him, and to explain that sometimes even people we love, who love us back, make bad choices and do things that hurt us. What matters is making sure we fix it so we don’t hurt each other again.
In the end, Caleb had apologetic phone calls and visits from all involved, and things are almost back to normal on the playground. But my baby boy’s heart was broken for the first time, and I know it wasn’t the last. I know now to be grateful in retrospect for the straightforward parenting challenges of nighttime feedings, bodily fluids and potty training. They sure beat this growing up stuff.