T Wants to Know… Can’t We All Just Get Along?!

The last couple of weeks have been a wee bit trying on T and I in that he’s been EXTREMELY emotional on school mornings. Translation: Crying at drop-offs.

After the third morning of this (T only still goes Tuesday and Thursdays to school), I decided that I needed to find the words behind T’s tears. If something like this happens once or twice, then I’m willing to chalk it up to T having some sort of growing pains or just a couple of bad days (because, hey, we ALL have them). However, when it got to be the third drop-off in a row going this way and no signs of getting better (worse actually), I felt a pattern had begun to develop. Time to break the pattern, stat.

Last Tuesday when T began the crying at home rather than at the schoolyard gate, I sat down with T, hugged him tight, and started with the questions. I asked if he liked school (felt it was best to start with broad strokes). “Yes,” he sniffled. I then asked if he liked everyone at school (not specifying teachers’ and/or kids’ names – again, broad strokes). “Yes,” he replied again.

Then I followed up a bit narrower. “Do you like everything you get to do at school?”

“Yes,” T answered again.

Now it was time to get really nit-picky. I asked T to list off who he was playing with lately at school and what types of games they played together. And that’s when I obviously hit a nerve.

“Well, see, A and M like to play with me, and I like to play with them. I also like to play with C. But if I am playing with C, A and M will pull me away and want me to play with them. They don’t want to play with C at all. And I want us all to play TOGETHER!” T then released a HUGE gush of tears here.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our answer. My little, big-hearted Rodney King child just wants everyone to get along! And don’t we all, and yet at the same time, don’t we not? Sigh.

I realize there are no easy answers to these kinds of problems. All I was able to offer up was the usual arsenal of parental advice. Things like the following:

“Well, if A and M come up when you are playing with C, ask them to join you both! Make it look like you two are having so much FUN that A and M will want to do nothing else but play with you two! And if they don’t want to play with you and C together, then tell A and M you’ll come play with them when you and C are done with your game.”

“Don’t let A and M tell you that you have to leave C to play with them. You are in charge of what you play, with whom, and when.”

“If you are asking the two boys to join in on your fun with C and they choose not to, that’s their choice. Just like they can’t make you play with them, you can’t force them to come have fun with you either.”

And on and on I went, probably a bit too much, but hey, I was trying.

Now last Thursday morning, T was not upset at home (progress, yay!), but once we got to school, the tears started again. Oy. I had a few minutes to sit with T and try to get to the bottom of what was wrong, though I sensed it had to do with the A-M-C-T dynamic yet again; surprise, surprise, I was right. Only this time, T said he specifically was upset because he said A “wouldn’t be his friend” if he didn’t want to play the games A and M wanted to play.

I found myself starting to ramble again, this time asking T what games it is that A and M play together, then asking what games he and C tend to play together. I got a nice mix of fireman, police, super heroes, and ninjas, depending on the combination of boys and their particular favorites.

“Well, that sounds easy enough… why can’t you be a fireman-policeman-super hero-ninja?” I asked T.

“No… well, how would that work?” T sniffled.

“Well, say there’s a fire, so you have to put that out as a fireman. Then you have to get who started the fire as the policeman, but you can’t catch up with the bad guy unless you fly like a super hero to catch up with him; then you can use your ninja moves on the bad guy!” I made all of that up on the spot (obviously). Then I went on with, “So if the other boys are playing all of those different games, you are all playing together. Kind of like when Kai-Lan and Lulu made games out of the two different things they each wanted to play. They took a little of each game and made one fun thing to do?”

“I don’t know, mama,” T hesitated as his tears dried up a bit. “I guess it did work for Kai Lan.” See, TV is good for some things, RMT’ers (ha).

“Well,” I asked, “will you give it a try?”

“OK.” T said. Then we hugged and I handed him off to the school director to go back to his classroom, and I left.

I’m not sure if anything I said or did will help T long-term (and I’m not even really sure how much of it helped last Thursday!), but at least I finally now know what’s bugging my Boo. Sadly, I also know that the kinds of problems that T’s been having don’t ever really go away; in fact, they only get more complicated and crazy really as we get to know more people and get older. Sigh again.

I’m looking forward to what school drop-off brings tomorrow morning. No, really, I am. While I hate – HATE – to see my kid so sad about what’s been going on in his little-but-getting-bigger-by-the-minute world, I’m simply amazed by the fact that he’s getting all grown up and starting to deal with and understand the types of life experiences that just can’t be taught effectively in textbooks. These life lessons are not easy, RMT’ers, but it’s essential for T to endure these age-appropriate challenges along life’s journey as it will help him become a wiser person as he ages – and it’s a HUGE growing experience for me as a parent to slow down, reflect upon, and grow through these experiences at T’s level, too.

Strength through adversity, RMT’ers… whatever comes your way this week, make it a great one. And, please, try to play nice together!