A friend generously gave him a toy airplane to keep after B asked if he could play with it. If you know anything about B, you know he adores airplanes. He always has, even when he was just a year and a half. Moving to this area was delightful to him in that aspect, because our proximity to DFW means that there are always planes to see in the sky (thankfully, not flying low enough for us to hear them). Needless to say, B was thrilled, and he happily zoomed that airplane around the playground.
After a while, I noticed that there was a crowd of boys around B, and in a few seconds, I noticed that a little blond boy was holding B's new airplane. I smiled, glad that B was doing a great job sharing.
But then the airplane disappeared, and B came and quietly sat in my lap, which is a rarity. I asked him what had happened to it. He kind of shrugged; soon thereafter, I saw him confidently walk up to one of the moms of the boys and say something to her. He walked away, and halfway back to where I was sitting, his face just broke and he began sobbing. I gathered him in my arms and asked what had happened. He was crying too hard to explain, and I looked up to see the mom rushing over to me.
"Is that your plane? I'm so sorry, my youngest son has one just like it, and when we saw your son holding it, we thought it was ours. And he was so sweet to give it to my son when we asked for it back earlier." Then, turning to B, she asked, "Would you come with me so I can give it back to you?"
I explained to my heartbroken little boy that it was all a mistake and asked if he would like to go with the lady to get the plane back. He sniffled, nodded, and retrieved the plane, but he came back and sat in my lap again. I don't think he wanted to play after that (I think he was concerned someone else was going to take his new toy away), but after some snacks, I encouraged him to go play.
He ran around with a couple older buddies, but after a while, I began noticing that every time B got near them, the boys would tell him to go away because he was "too little" and run away. My resilient little guy persisted in chasing them around, which left me torn between being proud of him and sad for him.
And then a younger kid hit him, and he got a small scrape on his hand (which wasn't a big deal, because fortuitously, I had packed bandaids in my bag this morning, and bandaids make everything better).
Through all of this, he maintained a pretty good attitude, and as we all left the park for nap time, he cheerfully waved goodbye to all our friends and thanked the buddy that had given him the airplane again.
But then on the car ride home, he asked why the boys were mean to him.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart, my friends.
My natural human tendencies wanted to just brush it off as "people can be mean," but I know that's not the answer. And I know babying him is not the answer either, because the world can be an unkind place, and he has to learn to be resilient and joyful despite that. So we talked about how everyone has hard days sometimes, about forgiving people who are mean to us, and being kind in return, regardless of how they treat us. I told him I was proud of how he conducted himself and for how he didn't retaliate when he was hit.
He told me that he still had a pretty good time at the park.
I know I've written in the past about how I learn my own lessons when I think I'm teaching my child. This was one of those moments, because, let's face it. If something that belonged to me was taken away, I would be angry and indignant. If friends excluded me and told me I wasn't welcome, I would be heartbroken and wouldn't trust them again with my heart. If someone hurt me physically, I would probably never spend time with them again. As I was speaking the words to my son, the Lord brought to mind a situation that had been grating on my nerves. He asked, "Are you going to release that situation to me and forgive her, even though she was thoughtless and unkind to you?"
My little boy fell asleep as we turned down our street. This also rarely happens. I sat in the driveway for a few minutes, looking at his tired face, remembering how "just yesterday," he was my innocent baby, with no concept of the brokenness of this world.
Henri Nouwen said, "Our life is full of brokenness -- broken relationships, broken promises, broken expectations. How can we live with that brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful, except by returning again and again to God's faithful presence in our lives?"
I tucked B in for his nap holding the surprise airplane gift from his buddy, and I'm thankful for the resiliency of children, how easily they forgive and how they don't hold grudges. I hope that someday, God's faithful presence will offer the same comfort to my boy's heart when the world is mean as that airplane is giving him today.