It’s not that Koopa’s graduation party went badly, exactly, it just was… overwhelming, I guess. For him. And for me too. And its not that it left a bad taste in my mouth, no, it just left… well, more of the taste of the reality than I usually have.
At the beginning, they sang songs (Koopa sang in whisper). This part was nice, actually. Very cute and touching. They’d been preparing for this performance for weeks, which made it that much more touching. The hard part came after the singing, when the random mingling and snacking and running around started. First, Koopa got upset because his best friend was playing with other kids when he wanted her to play only with him. We figured that out somehow, but that minor incident seemed to set off the ‘overwhelmed’ mode.
Then there was that stupid mic. Not sure why Koopa wanted a mic, but before I noticed, he was fighting with a bunch of other kids over it. I stepped in in my most grown up manner, and organized a very helpful system whereby they’d have to take turns to use the mic. Obviously, they had to comply, because I’m taller than them (i.e. so I could hold the mic very high if I wanted to and nobody would be able to use it! ha!). But they were still kind of impatient with each other. So when it was Koopa’s turn and he started whispering into the mic, one of the girls wanted to grab the mic from him, and when I didn’t let her, she yelled at him really really angrily: “But he doesn’t sing anyway, he only whispers!” Just like that. Really mean. Koopa didn’t react right away, but I immediately felt like I was about to break down crying right there and then, and the fact that I was taller than that girl (and, like, seven to eight times older) didn’t help a bit at that particular moment.
I’m well aware that in situations like this I’m supposed to come up with something helpful to say, something that would fix the situation, and be educational and beneficial for all parties involved. But, somehow, in such moments all my grown-up-ness just melts away, and leaves me feeling just like another four year old, ready to break down crying because my classmate is being mean to me.
I did manage to get myself together somehow and say in an educational and authoritative (albeit perhaps way too friendly) tone of voice that everybody is allowed to sing any way they like, even in whisper, but I’m not sure if it registered. By that point they resumed their fighting and Koopa wasn’t whispering any more, instead he was SCREAMING on top of his lungs INTO THE MIC, which, needless to say, attracted the attention of every single hearing (and hearing-impaired?) individual in the room. And he doesn’t usually even need a mic to scream real loud.
We had to leave very shortly after that, not so much because we were expelled for endangering everyone’s hearing abilities, but because Koopa wasn’t able to calm down (and from that point on, every little thing was a stressor). But also, and mostly importantly, because I wasn’t able to calm down.
Another kid was mean to my son… Another kid was mean to my son… This is WRONG. It’s not SUPPOSED to be like that. Yeah, right. Wake up and smell the coffee. Kids are mean to each other every day. People are mean to each other every day. The world is a real cruel place to live in and I can’t change it even a little bit to better suit my sensitive child. I know, this is a really profound generalization right there. But I am seriously still trying really hard to internalize it and not fight it. The stressful part is that, even though I know I’m not expected to mold the world to better suit my child’s needs, I am still the one responsible for fixing a situation like this for him somehow. As a parent, I am the one who is supposed to come up with the right thing to say in the heat of the moment. I am the one who is supposed to spell it out for him that although people are often mean and cruel, it is never ok. I am the one who is supposed to make it very clear to him that it is ok to be whoever he is, despite what other people may think or say. All this feels like a huge responsibility. And I’m terrified that in critical moments I won’t be able to fulfill it, because I’ll just sit there all hurt on behalf of my kid, just like another unhelpful four year old.
God knows I could never even conceive that this would be one of the challenges of parenting. I was convinced that by becoming a parent you automatically become a ‘grown-up’ (and get to carry around some kind of grown-up certificate in your wallet?) which basically means you know what the right thing to say or do is at any given moment. I never imagined that it’s quite the opposite: all that parenting does to you is stir up all your childhood fears and vulnerabilities without giving you a single clue about how to solve problems you never solved as a kid.
Or, maybe it gives you a second chance?