The other day I got all dressed up (well not really, I did my hair and make up) and went up to my son’s school to eat lunch with him.
It was supposed to be a surprise.
I put my daughter (age 3) into the “stay and play” at her preschool (and paid $15 for it…) so that I would be able to stay for the whole lunch period with my son.
I got there early so I could catch him as he walked in the cafeteria.
Immediately when I walked in the cafeteria I felt awkward being there, but was quickly put at ease when I saw how many parents were sitting at the parent tables with their children.
The office had told me where he would be entering the cafeteria so I stood there and waited. I had my phone ready on the camera screen. I just KNEW he would be so excited when he walked in and saw me.
And he was.
Until he realized I was there to sit with him. WHICH meant that he couldn’t sit with his friends.
To say he was unhappy about this would be an understatement. He outright refused to sit with me! We got out of the lunch line and he sat down with his friends and said bye to me.
As if I only came up to the school to catch a glimpse of him going through the lunch line.
I’m not sure if what I did next was the right thing, but I was hurt and I was honestly a bit angry that my efforts to surprise my son were being rebuked so ungraciously.
I made him sit with me.
I bargained with him that I would stay for only half the lunch period so he had times with his friends.
This made him happy long enough to snap this picture.
After that though, he started to get anxious that he wouldn’t have enough time to sit with his friends.
“Mommy, I need to go back before my teacher gets back or else I won’t get to talk to my friends. ”
I kept trying to talk to him, trying to engage him, trying to make him see how FUN I was and how AWESOME it was that I took time out of MY busy day to eat lunch with him.
Eventually he got so anxious that he was going to miss his “friend time” that he got up and started to walk away.
At this point I was near tears. I did NOT raise my child to treat me this way. At what point did I drop below friends he has known less than a MONTH in priorities?
Not wanting to cause a scene, I let him go.
As I walked out, I looked over at him through tear filled eyes and he smiled and waved at me. Looking perfectly content and happy that he was finally where he wanted to be.
Let me tell you…I bawled the WHOLE way home. This HURT. This HURT unlike any other hurt. My son rejected me. In that moment I was MAD at him. I was angry. I was defensive. I was embarrassed. I am ashamed to say the thought of picking him up late so he could worry a bit crossed my mind. I am SO ashamed to admit that.
It’s true though. Because I was HURT. Hurt in only the way your child could hurt you.
Thankfully, my husband talked me down a bit and I started to see the other side of things.
Lunch and recess are the only times in his LONG day that he gets to socialize. I am proud that he has forged relationships with his peers that matter to him. I am thankful that he gets along well with others and that he realizes that friendships need to be nurtured too.
He was never rude to me and throughout the whole course of events, I never once told him he was hurting my feelings. I expected my 5 year old son to read between the lines and to understand what I had done to be there and why he needed to appreciate it.
It wasn’t fair.
Now don’t get me wrong. I still don’t necessarily approve of his behavior and we DID talk about it when I picked him up (on time) for school. He did not know he was hurting my feelings. He also expressed that he really enjoys that time with his friends and likes to eat breakfast and dinner with me.
I’m okay with that.
It hurts a bit.
But I’m okay with that.
I know my child. In hindsight, I know I shouldn’t have surprised him. I know he likes predictability and that he needs to know when changes are coming so he can prepare himself for them. I know he loves his friendships.
Most of all, I know he loves ME.
I’m sure this won’t be the last time he hurts my feelings or even the worst way he hurts my feelings. We’re human and we’re bound to have more instances where he breaks my heart (and vice versa).
I was just surprised by how it felt I guess. I’ve had really big hurts in my life. Hurts caused by friends and by family. Hurts that involve actual crimes against me and my loved ones.
But this hurt, from my son…it ached in a place that I’ve never felt before.
I hope it’s a long time before I have to deal with it again.
Have you been hurt by your children? How did you deal with it? Answer in the comments.
UPDATE: I wrote this when my son was in Kindergarten. He will be entering Third Grade in a bit over a week and now begs me to come eat lunch with him on a weekly basis. My daughter does too!