I was disappointed. I had looked forward to going on this field trip with him, and he acted like he wished I hadn’t come. Of course, I knew that wasn’t true. Caleb was excited any time I came to his school, but one would have never known it from the distance he put between us at the museum.
The museum atmosphere was a little crazy–a whole town complete with a police car and fire truck, a hair salon and bank, the essential grocery store and hospital, every exhibit ‘hands-on’ and ready for sixty-four kindergarteners to blow through like a tornado. Caleb’s teacher asked if I would let Brandon join our group of two, and, of course, I said ‘yes.’ Brandon was sweet and listened when I asked the boys to stay together; Caleb, however, had other plans.
My anxiety level began to rise as Caleb would run to exhibit after exhibit without his friend or me by his side. I spent the majority of my time, not enjoying the exhibits, but trying to figure out if I, in fact, had Caleb and Brandon with me, a challenging feat when all thirty boys are dressed with the same uniform and short hairdo.
I was aggravated. I knew Caleb wanted to play with his best friend, but his teacher asked me to watch Brandon, too. I didn’t understand what was so hard about us all staying together, and I was getting tired of trying to force the cohesion.
And then I hit my limit for the day. Like a group of ducklings with their mama duck, the kids formed a line behind their teacher in preparation for going to lunch. Caleb had thought he started the line, but apparently so did another kid. As the front of the line moved ahead of Caleb, tears welled up in his eyes and spilled down his cheeks.
I sighed loudly while giving an obligatory side-hug. I could not believe he was going to start crying because he wasn’t the line leader. Caleb was going to need to toughen up–it doesn’t get much better than kindergarten.
But then I heard the words clearly in my mind:
He’s exactly like you.
And I immediately understood. Not only is Caleb only five, an important fact that I kept forgetting, but he’s got a sensitive heart just like his mama. He’s loyal to his friends, and that day he just wanted to find his buddy. His feelings bruise easily, and to a kindergartener, losing the title of ‘line leader’ is devastating.
I get that. I remember countless times of feeling wounded for this or that, a careless word or thoughtless inaction. I remember trying to blink back tears when I was embarrassed or hurt. And if I’m to be truthful, it’s easy to remember–I don’t have to look farther than last week.
In fact, I was over-sensitive the same day as Caleb. Yes, he should’ve listened better and stayed close to Brandon and me, but, honestly, I was upset because I was hurt. I was hurt that my son didn’t want me close like some of the other kids wanted their parents; I was hurt because my son didn’t obey. And I was critical of Caleb’s reaction in line because, often, we are most critical of those flaws we see in ourselves.
But, Caleb, having a sensitive spirit is also your asset. Your genuine concern and love for others makes my heart smile. So if once in a while the tears spill and our feelings hurt, it’s worth it.
Yesterday, Caleb made handwritten cards with original drawings for each of his classmates just because he wanted to. I picked up one card that read, ‘You are my best friend.’
“Riley, really?” I responded, a little surprised since Caleb hadn’t really mentioned Riley before.
And without missing a beat, he cleared up my confusion.
“Well, I think he wouldn’t like it if I wrote ‘You’re not my best friend.’
Yes, Caleb’s just like me but better.