On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from April 2008.

This morning I hosted a playdate for my son and three other little boys. My son was really struggling to get along with them, for many reasons. For one, my son was the youngest, so he was having trouble following the “rules” of their games, and frustrating them. Also, the other boys spend a lot of time with each other, and they seemed to get a kick out of acting like Jafta was a complete social parasite. And then, my son has the typical 3-year-old tendencies of not sharing, not following directions, and grabbing toys from others. Not to mention his own set of quirks (being hyper and overly touchy).

Throughout the playdate, I was really doing my best to show Jafta how to play well. It hurts my heart to see him be the “odd man out”, so I kind of take it upon myself to point out how his actions affect others. I will highlight a few of my well-meaning quotes from the playdate:

“Jafta, please respect his boundaries”
“Jafta, what kind of feedback are they giving you right now?”
“Jafta, they don’t like it when you crash into them”
“Jafta, how is your friend feeling about that?”
“Jafta, are you giving him enough space?”

At the end of the playgroup, as we are saying our goodbyes, one of the other parents says to me, “I tend to take a more laid-back approach to the social stuff. I think if you let them be, they will figure it out on their own, eventually.” Oh. My. Gosh. Suddenly it dawns on me that I am being called out for hovering. I am being THAT MOM. The annoying one that tags one step behind and won’t let their kid learn about life on their own timing.

How did this happen?? I’ve tried so hard not to be. But it is SO hard as a mom not to want to rescue our kids from any and all things unpleasant. I don’t want Jafta to ever feel rejected, or unliked. But by shielding him from that, I am also preventing him from learning from his own behavior. Because, after all, don’t we really learn by falling on our faces a time or two? I mean, I remember my mom lecturing me about wiping my nose with my sleeve, but it wasn’t until a peer made fun of me for doing it that I actually changed my behavior.

My son is only three, and I know he has a long road ahead of him with things he will struggle with. He’s going to be left out. He’s going to get his heart broken. He’s going to be picked last for the team. He’s going to be made fun of. These are all part of the human experience, and things he will learn and grow from. But oh, how I wish I could spare him. But I am reminded that the most loving thing is to stand back and watch, and let him know that no matter what, I am his number one fan.