Protecting Our Young
As moms, we are hard wired to protect our children. Aside from rats and guppies who eat their young - which sounds like a smart option sometimes- the rest of us females in the animal kingdom are biologically engineered to throw ourselves in front of a bus to shield our babies.
Last week on an end-of-summer vacation bike ride in Martha's Vineyard with my 9-year-old son, Jonah, I nearly collided into a German Shepherd. The fierce looking canine was pacing the side of the bike path. Under normal circumstances, this would have rattled me given my innate fear of dogs with spiked up ears. But it was more nerve wracking because a few minutes earlier we had seen an odd sign warning pedestrians of a "German Shepherd Crossing." The yellow sign with a silhouette of an attack dog, evoked the danger of a crocodile pit.
When we saw the dog, I told Jonah to turn around and ride as fast as he could. I don't know if that was the most prudent advice in dealing with a potentially aggressive predator, but I just shouted, "go go go!"
When we were out of harm's way, or what my fanciful imagination perceived as harm's way, Jonah asked me what I would have done if the dog had attacked. I told him in my most badass tone that I would have hurled my body onto the wild beast to protect my boy so he could escape unscathed. He liked that.
Cut to a week later - First Day of School. Jonah was super excited for school. He's the kid who loves to pick out his pencil grips and pack his bag days in advance. He was thrilled for school to begin - a big year - Fourth Grade. But when he came home he was crestfallen. His best friend was not in his class as he had expected. I knew he was trying to stay strong and brave, but the tears in his eyes gave him away. He was crushed.
Jonah spent the rest of the night miserable and teary eyed. His heart was broken and he said he now believed that he was going to have a terrible year. Was he over reacting? Probably. But the sadness and disappointment were all very real for him. I, too, remember vividly when my best friend and I were split up in elementary school. I was devastated. And I also had a difficult time rebounding.
It's in those moments that I just want to take the hurt away - the social hurt. The scraped knees and smashed fingers can sting and throb. But so far, I've been more stoic in cleaning up the physical boo boos than the psychological ones. Maybe it's because as parents we can still feel the twinge of the emotional scar tissue from our youth. The grown up fat kid will always remember being that fat kid. For good or for bad, those things stay with us.Experiencing sadness, social discomfort, embarrassment, teasing, and big time disappointment are part of life's journey. Those mini dramas and personal challenges weave together the fabric of our character and instill in us everything from resilience to empathy. In hindsight -I know it's healthy. And it's important for our kids to deal with the tough stuff and move on. But in my son's emotional moments of vulnerability
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