The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell of fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with crime, guilt—and there is the story of mankind.
- John Steinbeck, East of Eden
BabyMoo has always been a sociable child. There is nothing he loves more than to be surrounded by other kids and participating in play. He has displayed a particular preference to socialising with older kids, maybe because he feels that they are more able to show him how to do fun things, as opposed to being with a group of children who are of the same age as he is.
With self discovered mobility comes a period of satisfying curiosity. He found out that he was able to do a lot of things on his own as he slowly realised that he is a separate and distinct entity from the people around him. He is thus able to take control of his actions - which forced his caregivers to up the vigilance factor. He also realised that there were other little people who 'speak' the language only kids seem to understand, and are also in the process of discovering the world around them. This sparked off his interest in being with other like-minded beings, and makes him look forward to playground jaunts, playdates, and being anywhere that has other children at play.
All good and fine, because in many situations of close proximity, we are either with friends, or have been lucky enough thus far to be in contact with other parents who also realise the importance of educating their children on how to play well with others.
Last weekend, we were at St Teresa's Church for our weekly Sunday mass. We don't normally go to this church, but BabyMoo woke up too late for our usual service. There is a 'Children's Room' here, which I don't really like to go to because on many other occasions, the children are left to raise a ruckus and not controlled in any way despite their parents being present. Sadly, I suppose many people do not realise that the room is not an alternative for a playground.
There were a few older kids there, some of whom were playing quietly, while there are others who were trying to practice their UFC moves.
BabyMoo was playing with his two cars on a bench, next to me, while silently observing the other kids at play. He then walked over to another boy, smiled, and offered his car to him, so that they can then play together. I was actually rather aghast at the boy's reaction next. He shrank away (as though BabyMoo has an infectious disease or has a grotesque appearance), pushed him, and shouted: "Go Away!"
My little boy walked over to me, with a perplexed expression, and laid his head on my lap. He then turned to look at the other boy - who was still looking at him with a sullen expression. His parents did not say a word.
I didn't know what to do or say to make my baby feel better. He wasn't angry or upset... he looked more sad than anything else. I really think he was hurt. It broke my heart.
He was quiet for the rest of the half an hour we were there. Unusually so, because he clambered up to me, sat on my lap, hugged me, and kept his head buried on my shoulder. We left before the entire service ended, because after that, I was really pretty shaken up on this entirely new facet of parenting which I have to handle.
I know that this would only be the beginning of BabyMoo's exposure to social mechanics of children at play... which I suppose can be far more blatant than the social networkings of adults. Adults are able to hide their feelings, protect others' feelings, be emphatic, and make necessary adaptations to their lifestyles to co-exist with others, but children have yet a long way to go when it comes to understanding social graces.
BabyMoo can be aggressive when he's pushed to a corner. As parents, the hubs and I see the importance of teaching him on how to handle his emotions so that they will work in his favour instead of making him look like an uncouth boor. He needs to be taught to be emphatic and to be sensitive to other people's feelings. Basic social grace is important - saying 'Please' and 'Thank You' is mandatory - and he must apologise when he is in the wrong.
I wish I can protect him forever from the harsh realities of life. But I know I can't... and there will be many many more times when I have to soothe frazzled nerves, along with feelings of rejection, inadequacy and teasing. Knowing that I have an extremely sensitive boy also makes me realise that I can be in for a very rough ride... but I am going to try to teach him on how to make these episodes in his life a learning process instead of letting him view them as a massive blow to his ego. Wish me luck.
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