The grass is never greener
As I watched C on the first morning of school, I also watched the boys in his class greet each other with fist bumps and high fives. C stood alone by the side of his class line and completely shut down. No words, no smiles, just a death grip on my hand strong enough to make me wince, while he looked straight ahead and fingered the picture of our dog he had stashed away in his pocket.
Last year, C seemed to figure out that girls are good and boys are sometimes mean. Blessedly he missed much of the teasing directed his way, but there was definitely some awareness that the boys weren’t always nice. I watched him throughout the year as he eventually stopped greeting many of the boys in his class altogether. He just gave up and stopped trying with them. Part of me was happy that he learned to stay away from those who hurt him, but the other part of me wished he didn’t even realize they hurt him.
Of course, if C didn’t recognize the pain of being shunned, I would have a completely different child than I do. I am thankful for how far C has come over the years, and I remind myself it wasn’t really all that long ago (although it seems a world away) that we were worried he’d never break out of his shell and lead the kind of life he’s leading now. This is a child who wants friends with a desperation that is enough to make me cry but rejoice at the same time. Far more a blessing than a curse, C’s awareness of other kids and his desire to have friends sometimes brings him sadness but also delivers the greatest joy. My single most important challenge as a parent is making sure those two emotions counter-balance each other.