Our son, age 6, was sitting on a stack of several bags of potting soil. Crying. The kind of crying that makes my heart squeeze, not the kind of crying, loud and full of self-pity, which makes my eyes roll. This was a sad cry.
The neighbor boy was being mean to him, he said. Calling him names.
For a moment, I focused on myself – why didn’t he tell me sooner, instead of crying alone like that? Then I felt indignant – should I tell that kid what I think of him now? Next, I wondered if he had “done the family proud,” and punched the mean child. Somehow, miraculously perhaps, I kept quiet through these thoughts until he was done with his story and had calmed down a bit.
Then, I gave him a list of things to remember:
1. Always remember that God loves you. You are special to Him. He loves you as much as He loves anyone. He’ll always be your friend.
2. If someone causes you to feel bad about who you are, then leave. You do not have to stay around someone who is making you feel that way.
3. (I had three fingers up to this point until I realized he was distracted by them) Your family loves you. You can always come home, and here you will be welcomed. We will not be mean to you. We will be your friends.
4. Do you feel awful inside? (he nods) Good. I want you to remember this feeling forever. (at this, he looked up at me with a big “why” in his eyes) When you think of being mean to someone else, even your brother and sister, remember how you felt when someone was mean to you.
5. I love you. Do you want to do something with me?
At that, our boy’s disposition changed entirely (maybe it was because mama was finally done talking!). He decided to have his own fun with me. Within minutes, the offending neighbor boy came with an apology and wanted to join us.
I had my happy boy back again.