September 24, 2010
This morning I took Nicholas on a “date” to get breakfast together and see a play. My expectations were that it would be a fun Mommy/son outing and since it was his first play he’d look back on it with fond memories.
We arrived at the small theater and found our seats. The play was based on Melinda Long’s book, “How I Became a Pirate.” We’d borrowed the book from the library and enjoyed reading it together. To begin the performance, one of the actresses read the book to the children. We enjoyed it once again. Then the play began.
As the lights lowered Nicholas became nervous, so I asked if he wanted to sit in my lap. He did. The main character, a boy name Jeremy Jacob, came out and began building a sand castle. He started to pretend to be a pirate, waving a stick around as a sword. Things were still going pretty well. Then the "real" pirates began to come on stage. Pirate music played and they were creeping between sand dunes and crawling onto the beach from under the “pier” and as soon as one spoke in his rough pirate voice, Nicholas was ready to leave.
He turned in my lap so that he was no longer facing the stage, pressed one ear against my chest and covered the other ear with my hand and said frantically, “I don’t like this. I want to go home. Let’s get out of here.” I tried to help him calm down, to see if he might get over the discomfort and enjoy the show, but nothing seemed to help.
As I quickly weighed everything out in my mind, I’m sure it seemed like forever to him…”We paid $20 for this. We’ll have to go down in front of the stage to get to the exit. Will the friends we were here with think it crazy if we walk out now, just 5 minutes into the show?”
And then I felt it in my spirit and heard it in an unquestionable way, “How much is your child’s trust worth? Do you want him to know that he can depend on you when he’s desperate? Do you want to empower him to flee a situation that makes him uncomfortable or do you want to train him to override that feeling? You are making a memory with him today. What do you want him to recall?”
So we left.
I grabbed my purse, held his hand, and we walked out, in front of everyone. As we left, another worker from the theater said, “It’s a bit much for some.” “Yes,” I responded.
We walked into the sun on the sidewalk, eyes squinted at the sudden burst of light, wiping away tears that wanted to spill over onto cheeks. “You know,” the worker called after us from the door, “I think that being uncomfortable is often a sign of good judgment.” I nodded and smiled as we rounded the corner.
On the walk back to the car we found a park. We spent nearly an hour exploring; playing on the train playground, picking up acorns “with hats” to draw faces on later, taking off shoes to dip our feet in the fountain, and petting a dog.
There in the park I watched my little boy walk over to a stranger (after asking me if it was okay) and clearly say, “Sir, can I please pet your dog?” After the appropriate response from the dog’s owner, he knelt down and gently rubbed the dog’s back, returned to a stand, looked the man in the eye and said, “Thank you.” Then he came running back to me with the biggest grin and proudest stride. “He did let me pet him, Mommy. While I rubbed his back I said, ‘Good, doggy. You’re a good dog.’”
And then I knew. I passed this test. Sure there will be others, several before I go to bed tonight, but on this one, I did okay.