My son has been having a tough day. He’s only 3, and he doesn’t know what a pandemic is. Maybe because of that, I haven’t been too concerned about his emotional adjustment to things. I’ve been more concerned about my 6-year-old, who does understand that we’re trying not to get sick, and who does understand that he’s not in Kindergarten with his friends anymore. He knows he’s missing something.
My 3-year-old? Well who knows what goes on in the heads of toddlers.
But earlier today he just kept crying and losing it over everything. The tears would stream down his cheeks at the slightest provocation.
We went outside to play, and on the way back into the house he slipped and smashed his head into the floor. My first thought was “I cannot take this kid to the ER right now.” I rushed to pick him up and offer him ice cream, because I knew if he was willing to accept ice cream, he was ok enough not to need to go to a doctor.
He ate the ice cream. And then he immediately began sobbing, for the umpteenth time today. This time it was because I didn’t completely cover the bottom of his ice cream dish. He just kept pointing to the bare spot, crying and crying.
My patience was pretty thin, and I snapped at him. What else did he want?? And then the tears kept coming, and I took a longer look at that little pudgy boy in his pjs, crying over nothing.
And I realized, more clearly than I have all week, that he’s not crying over nothing. He’s crying because he’s small, and doesn’t have all the words, and he’s full of big feelings. And because like the rest of us, his daily routines have been entirely upended. He hasn’t seen his favorite teachers in 3 weeks. He hasn’t played with anyone his age. He hasn’t been able to wrestle with his grandpa or play at the park. He may not be scared, but his life has certainly been disrupted.
And so I gave him one extra scoop, spreading it in his dish to cover the small space that was bare. The bare space that made him cry to start with. Because it’s not just about a little space in an ice cream dish. It’s about all the other spaces that are left empty in his world.
And it’s about how I need to hold a space for him too.
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