A few weeks ago I was sitting on a bench at the playground watching my three kids run around like wild things. They had so much energy, but they were happy.
Two older boys appeared on bikes. They seemed to be laughing and enjoying themselves. They hopped up on a spring-loaded teeter-totter and continued their conversation. My 6-year-old son approached them with confidence.
“Did you know that this doesn’t go up like a regular see-saw?!?” he exclaimed. “You just kind of bounce up and down.” He beamed at the chance to have brought them this information.
“Did you hear that?” one boy said to the other, his tone mocking. “This isn’t a regular seesaw,” he exclaimed, rolling his eyes and snorting. The other boy laughed in response.
My son turned toward me, smiling. I could tell he was so proud of himself for being helpful that he took no notice of the laughing boys as he ran off to play.
And my fierce mama heart wanted me to level my eyes with those of that mean boy and ask him if it made him feel “big” to mock a little boy like that. I wanted to shake him by the shoulders. I wanted him to regret treating my son like that and to think twice before being cruel in the future.
But I didn’t.
You see, I can’t be there every time another person is mean to my son. I won’t be there every time he feels hurt or sad because of something someone else says or does.
I can’t stop every bully he encounters.
But I can be his hype woman. I can be the mom who makes him feel worthy and loved no matter what happens. I can teach him that he doesn’t need to fit in with everyone and that the best kind of people to surround yourself with are the ones who accept you and treat you with kindness and respect. I’ll remind him that no one is perfect and that sometimes other people need our grace and forgiveness the same way we need theirs. I’ll show him empathy. I want him to be confident that I will always love him for exactly who he is.
I can’t stop the bad things that will happen to him.
Those bad things might make him frustrated, angry, or sad. I can tell him it’s okay to have those feelings. I will normalize feeling bad and making mistakes. I will help him cope and take responsibility for his own errors.
The world can be harsh, but it can also be beautiful. I will always be here to tell him he belongs in it. He is such an incredibly unique and wonderful soul. I can protect him from some things, but I can’t protect him from everything. I will always be his safe place.