If you missed the first half of this story, you can find it here. It explains the events that led up to this point.
I was determined to get this child to talk to me. He tends to clam up or just not have any answers whenever I try, which makes me feel like I somehow failed or that he doesn’t trust me enough to talk to me about how he’s feeling. It’s either that or he has no idea what he’s feeling, which, all things considered, is a very distinct possibility, especially when coupled with the word capacity of a child and no way to explain himself so that others will get it. I know how that feels; even as an adult I often feel that I don’t have the words to make people get it, and it breaks my heart to see him struggling in the same way.
We went into the bedroom and shut the door and I sat next to him on the bed.
“Why are you crying?” I asked him.
I got the obvious answer of not wanting to lose his games, but I knew – I knew – that wasn’t all of it. He’s a sensitive kid and extremely emotional just like I was when I was his age, but the surface appearance isn’t always what it seems to be. People tend to want to lump kids in as having simple feelings and emotions because they’re young. They couldn’t possibly have anything too complicated to deal with because “it’s easer being a kid than an adult.”
“Donovan, I’m not yelling at you, ok? I just want to know what’s bothering you.”
“Braeden always gets to do everything. Like when you ask me to get you something and then he has to do it so he doesn’t cry and then I don’t even get the chance to do anything.”
“Ok, well, we can work on that. Braeden will have to learn to take turns. Do you sometimes feel like he gets more attention than you do?” A nod. “And do you feel like the baby gets more attention than you do?” Another nod. “Yea, I know.. it’s hard having littler people in the house that can’t really do anything for themselves yet, huh?”
I didn’t elaborate on the whole being a big brother means you get to do more things and do them first. It wasn’t the time for that pep talk. “Is there anything else that bothers you?”
He had started calming down by that point, but as soon as he opened his mouth and started talking, the tears came again. He literally looked like his heart was breaking as he sobbed, “I’m always gonna be a bad kid at school.”
I grabbed his hand. “You’re not a bad kid at school! Look how much better your sticks have gotten.”
“But I used to be bad at school!” Still sobbing.
“Honey, you weren’t ‘bad.’ You just have a hard time paying attention all the time like they want you to. That doesn’t make you bad.”
“Yes it does! I lost sticks and then they took away recess and I had to go to the principal’s office. I’m always just gonna be bad ’cause I always get in trouble! Even at home!”
A part of me died inside hearing him say that. I immediately reached over and scooped him into my arms, fighting back my own tears for this child who had somehow come to the conclusion that he could never be anything good. My heart was literally hurting for him and I had no idea how to fix this. A mother wants her children to be happy, secure and to have the belief that they can be anything they put their minds to.. not this helpless, broken child so sure before his 7th birthday has hit that he is a terrible person who can never be better.
All I could do was sit there and hold him and reassure him continually that he wasn’t a bad kid; that we love him no matter what he does and that misbehaving doesn’t make any kid a “bad” kid. It’s just part of being a kid.. and sometimes part of being an adult as well.
When he had finally calmed down and his topics of conversation had drifted back into the normal kid realm, I resumed my position next to him. We talked a bit about a few everyday things, like what he was doing at school and his upcoming birthday party.
Before we got up to leave, I reached out and took both of his hands in mine.
“Hey,” I said. “I want you to know that if there is anything ever bothering you, you can tell me, ok? You can talk to me about anything. I’m not going to get mad at you. I’m your mom and I love you.. I just want to help. Ok?”
“Ok,” he replied quietly as I hugged him.
Here’s hoping he takes me up on it..