go away!

Go away.

After three long weeks, this was the greeting I got. “Go away.”

Not a hug.

Not a smile.

Not a “Mommm!”

Three weeks of imagining how it would go, and I clearly had imagined wrong. Ouch. Then I took a step back. Well, truthfully, I didn’t have to move. He actually sidestepped me. Glanced over, and stepped even further away. A friend asked “Cole, is this your Mom?” “Yeah”. “Aren’t you going to give her a hug?” “No” “Well, I’m going to!” Nice girl.

But Cole? Right at that moment? I wasn’t thinking such generous thoughts about him. Just like he wasn’t thinking generous thoughts about me. I had tried to enter into his world when he wasn’t ready. Camp wasn’t yet over. He still had 12 hours to go.

In my defense, parents are invited and encouraged to come to the performance. In my defense, other parents were greeting their kids, too.

But other kids aren’t my kid. And that was the person I needed to be cued to. He wasn’t ready to leave his friends, to transition back to family. He had become part of a new tribe, and wasn’t ready to relinquish that new identity.

But “go away”? That’s not how to communicate it.

So later, much later, the next day after bags were packed and cars pulled away and we finally got hugs and laughed and heard stories and let him nap, we talked about it. It might have started with “Dude. That wasn’t cool.” We talked about what had happened and what he had been feeling and how he could have communicated it. And, hopefully, some of it sank in. And, realistically, some of it didn’t.

And that’s okay.

Because just as we teach our children how to walk, hop on one foot and ride a bike, we teach them how to say please, greet new people, tell us how they feel. But whether it’s physical or emotional, there is a wobbly period. Times when they are clumsy. Times when they start out strong, waver, then bite the dust. “Go away” was one of those times.

The physical bumps and bruises of early childhood are easier. We can see them fall. See that they need a hand to hold or an arm to balance on. Physical clumsiness is easily understood. There is no need for forgiveness. They are learning, we are helping. It is all clear.

But the emotional clumsy times that stretch from the first “I hate you!” through the college years are harder. I think because we can’t see the internal wobble before they snap and bite.

Sharp words, bruised feeling, wounded pride. These are the scrapes and scratches of emotional clumsiness. And they need our guidance now just as they did before. Helping them untangle what they feel and straightening out how to say it clearly. And kindly.

Go away? I’ll be back. And we’ll walk forward together.


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