I think that most parents would agree with me, that we all just want to keep our babies safe.
It’s not just that we don’t want them to suffer physically, but we want to spare them from any kind of emotional or psychological pain as well. It’s the reason that kids sports don’t keep score, or that everyone gets a trophy.
It’s why one mother will attack another mother if she feels her child is hard done by.
It’s the reason that our children have so much stuff; we can’t bear to see them go without.
At some point though, we have to let them move out from the safety of our wings, into the big wide world, and that is kind of scary.
When my eldest started preschool, I didn’t have a concern in the world. I knew she was ready both academically and socially, and she proved me right and had a ball.
When Bridie started, I had my reservations. As a baby she had suffered extreme separation anxiety, and I really wondered how she would cope being away from me.
Turns out fine.
There were also some other worries I had though; would she listen to the teacher, would she always been in trouble? Would her hard headedness translate into lots of visits to the principles office?
Again, I needn’t have worried.
Her teachers have always described her as ‘quiet and compliant’ which are two words I would never have associated with her.
And now it’s Bailey’s turn.
He has been in preschool for about a month now, and seems to be settling in quite well. He is a good boy; eager to please and do what he is told. He likes his teacher, and does everything he is asked. He separates easily, though he does linger for an extra big cuddle in the morning.
And yet, I still worry.
About his heart.
You see, my boy is such a sensitive boy. Not in a spooky, cry at everything way; if he hurts himself he barely makes a noise.
But he takes words to heart. They mean something to him. The random ‘you’re not my friends” thrown out by naive four year olds cut him deep.
Being told ‘you can’t play,’ hurts him in a way that nothing else could.
And it breaks my heart, to see his heart hurt.
As a mother, this puts me in a tough place. Obviously I want to protect him from the nastiness, and come to his defense, and yet I also know that it is through this time he will develop resilience. Realising that people are careless with their words is a lesson best learnt young.
Part of me wants to teach him to ‘toughen up!’ To be masculine about it. But at the same time, I know it’s not his masculinity that’s at risk; he is all boy. And I never want him to lose that soft side of him. That is a rare and beautiful thing to see in a strong, manly man, and that is what I hope he will become.
So I’m left with the precarious balance of showing compassion and empathy when he tells me who has hurt him (‘You’re the only one that listens to me mum,’), and teaching him that we can’t get upset every time.
That people will say things, but that doesn’t mean they are true.
So I’ve been pondering how to protect his innocence, whilst letting him move out from under my wing. Wondering about all my kids and how to protect them from the world, when the answer comes to me from a very wise Jedi.
In the school holidays, I let Bailey watch one of the star wars movies.
And he loved it.
There is something about the battle for good and evil, and playing the hero that appealed to his masculinity, and since then, his obsession has grown and grown. This was in part, aided to some star wars cartoons my mum bought him for his birthday, and a toy Light-Saber he carries around like a security blanket.
I’ve never seen him so interested in anything. On many occasions, when being asked to do something, he will politely respond with, ‘My name is not Bailey. It’s Annikin.’
“Well Annakin, can you please put your shoes away.”
“Yes Mum.” (Jedi are so obedient ;))
The other day, whilst in the car regaling us with the heroics of Annikin killing Darth Vader, I happened to mention that they were, in fact, the same person.
I immediately wished I hadn’t said anything.
His face crumpled as he tried to work out a world where the hero turned into the bad guy, and it just didn’t fit.
As the days have gone on, this truth has obviously been praying on his little mind, because he brought it up this morning, and the truth of his words hit me more than any wisdom Master Yoda could impart.
“Mum. I don’t think Annakin is Darth Vader. I don’t think he is bad. I think he just changed and was a good Jedi.”
Maybe it’s the idealism of a little boy, but I saw, in that moment, why the words hurt him so much; because he honestly believes the best of people. He can see that people can always choose to do right, and change the world. To fight the evil.
And call me crazy, but if he was Annakin, I think the landscape of Star Wars history would have been a lot different, and Luke and Leia would have grown up in a happy home, with a father and mother.
In that moment, I saw that this little boy, with a light saber toy and a heart of gold, could actually change the world, just by his faith, that good will always win.
But he’s going to save the empire, then I’m going to have to let him.