Monday, April 14, 2008

It's Hard To Be A Four-Year-Old

Oh, what a day for my poor little Super Boy...

Super Man, Super Boy and I spent yesterday afternoon doing yard work. Believe me, our yard desperately needed it. (Scratch that - STILL needs it...) Anyhoo, Super Man was hellbent on getting more grass seed down before we had to wrap it up for the afternoon, despite the fact that the lawn guy who stopped over yesterday morning to give us a quote for regular lawn treatments said that seeding should be done in the fall. Oh, yeah, and despite the fact that Super Man has already spent a blessed fortune on grass seed each spring for the past, oh, four years only for our yard to look exactly the same. Whatever.

Super Boy was really excited to help us out with the yard work. See, he's on a bit of an independent "big boy" kick lately, and is constantly showing us how big and strong he is, how much he can lift, how careful he is with tools, etc. To top it off, Super Man bought Super Boy a brand new mini rake and shovel at Home Depot yesterday, which literally sent Super Boy into the stratosphere with joy and excitement. He wanted to use his tools for all they were worth, so I set about finding little areas for him to rake and shovel while Super Man kept telling Super Boy, "no," and "not there, buddy," etc. I could sense Super Boy's frustration mounting at his daddy's lack of enthusiasm and, um, "open-mindedness" for his help.

The whole thing finally came to a head when Super Man started running that spiky tool over the area he wanted to seed and made the mistake of telling Super Boy that he was almost ready to seed. Super Boy knew where Super Man had put the new bags of seed he'd just purchased and, thinking he was being helpful, ran off to bring the bags over to where we were working. Super Man yelled at him to leave the seed where it was because he didn't want the bags dumped or the seed to get damaged, blah, blah, blah. Frankly, I think Super Man blew it all a bit out of proportion, but given how big a mission he was on to get the seed in the ground before daylight waned, it wasn't surprising.

Super Boy got VERY upset. It was heart-breaking to watch because Super Boy hates to let his dad see him cry. His lower lip and chin started quivering as he stared his dad down. God bless my little boy, he's not one to cower in a puddle when he's getting yelled at, especially when he feels it's unfair - he stands his little ground. After Super Man finished yelling at Super Boy, Super Boy walked away, climbed up to the platform of his swing set and turned his back to his dad while he sat there crying, quietly.

I waited a few minutes, giving him some space, before calling to him to come help me rake up dead leaves and shovel them into the wheelbarrow; he ignored me. I waited a few more minutes. Then I climbed up to his platform and slowly turned him around. His eyes were puffy red from crying and he had that beautiful little thin stream of snot slinking down his upper lip that only little kids seem not to mind. I asked him what was wrong. He took a deep, shaky breath and then told me how Super Man had wronged him by yelling at him for moving the seed when he was being very careful and was a big boy and knew how to do it carefully. His breath kept catching and I could feel the frustration dripping from every word. My little boy was angry. VERY angry. He was angry that his dad was treating him like a little kid instead of a big boy. His earnest steadfastness made my breath catch and I came thisclose to crying along with him.

Super Man wandered over a few minutes into our discussion, realizing that his son was really, REALLY mad at him. He tried to talk to Super Boy, but Super Boy just buried his face into my shoulder and sobbed, again not wanting his dad to see him cry. I held him until he quieted down a bit and then told him he needed to talk to Daddy and work it out. He lifted his little chin, looked his dad in the eye and said, "You d-d-don't think I c-c-can c-c-carry the s-s-seed carefully, but I c-c-can! I know I have to be c-c-careful with it, but you yelled at m-m-me. It's n-n-not f-f-fair!"

Super Man was speechless for a minute and I could see in his eyes that he felt horrible for making Super Boy feel so... so... little. Super Man's tone softened and he told Super Boy that he just didn't want the seed to get damaged, because then it wouldn't grow. Super Boy said, "I kn-kn-know that Dad, but I was b-b-being c-c-careful. You just d-d-don't think I c-c-can d-d-do it."

Super Man asked Super Boy to come down and show him how careful he could be. Reluctantly, Super Boy came down from his platform. Interestingly enough, Super Man was trying to get Super Boy to slide down the slide to him, but Super Boy chose to come back down the stairs instead. I respected him for making that choice - it was what a "big boy" would do. With very deliberate movements, Super Boy went over, picked up one bag of seed, walked carefully over to the spot Super Man wanted it in, and gently set it down on the ground. Then he walked back to Super Man and looked up at him with a look that screamed See? I told you I could do it. Then he went back up onto his swingset and sat there by himself.

Never have I wished more that I could've produced a sibling for this little boy than I did yesterday, watching him sit, alone, so strong but sad. I couldn't help but think that maybe if he'd had a sibling to play with, he wouldn't have cared so much about helping us with the yard work. He wouldn't care so much about proving to Super Man that he's a big boy, and could maybe enjoy being a kid a little more. I pray that I can still give him that gift, somehow, someday.

In the meantime, I respect the hell outta that kid for being so sure of himself and his abilities. After all, it's not easy being four....

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