Over the weekend, Basti labored over three pieces of bond paper. He drew a few figures on one with marking pens, drew a banana on another and cut it out, and fashioned the third piece of paper into an envelope with markers and tape. It wasn’t very “good” but it was creative and imaginative and I admired his effort into making it. I asked Basti what it was, and he said, “it’s a thank you card for letting me play at her house.” He was referring to his classmate who had him over for a playdate months back. This little girl was older but her mother and I are friends, so they had opportunities to play together in the past.
As someone who’s worked with kids for a good part of her life, I knew what was coming up. Children are always honest, sometimes painfully so, and I knew I had to be around when Basti gave the girl his little gift. At the waiting area in school the next day, I watched Basti quietly walk up to his classmate and hesitantly handed over the thank you card to her. She looked at him with a puzzled expression, so I called them both over and talked to her. I said, “It’s a thank you note for letting him play at your house before.” She said, “Oh.” She looked at him and said, “It’s not very good.”
Basti’s face fell. My heart broke. I knew it was going to happen. He sidled up to me and took comfort in his nursing spot and I told him, “It’s a very good card. When you get better and better, more people will think so too. Not just me.” We stayed there for a few minutes until he calmed down and went to play with the other kids. I saw him try and I saw him brushed off, ignored, yet he kept his brave face on and still tried. Finally it was time to fall in line and go to his classroom and he waved bye to me, and I smiled back and told him to have a good day. I went to my car and cried.
Basti was called “a complex child” by his school director when he was in pre-school. He is observant, contemplative, sensitive, has a very generous spirit, and his teachers needed to teach him to be assertive because he was always just giving in to other children who wanted to play with his toys. He may look like me, but his personality is his father’s. He has an artist’s heart and soul.
Seeing your child transition from baby to kid is difficult. In preschool it was all fun and all the kids just love each other without question. This will be the first of many instances of disappointment and rejection, and I pray that I have done my part in getting him emotionally ready. Our jobs as parents never end. Just when you think you’re over a hump, there’s another one coming up and sometimes it’s on a curve.
As much as I want to “rescue” Basti, I clench my fists and keep the tiger in me at bay. I know that if the tiger in me doesn’t let my cub fight his battles, he’ll never grow up to be a tiger himself. So I smile, I tell him the words he needs to hear, then go in the car and cry. One day, when Basti is a strong, capable, young man, I know the heartache was worth it.
Go fight, kiddo. I’ll always be in your corner.