I cry over everything. I am not exaggerating when I say everything. A commercial with puppies? Tears. A sad movie with unrequited love? Tears. Someone wins on a game show? Tears.
I always like to think that me being emotional and sensitive does not equate to being weak, despite the fact that some people do believe that notion. Just because I cry easily does not mean that I am some weak dandelion puff where one strong wind will blow me all over the place. Being emotional and in tune with my emotions, and others, is what I believe to be a wonderful quality. It might mean that people take advantage or walk all over me, but I would rather know that at the end of the day I try to be loving and kind and if people want to be nasty and think poorly of me for being like that then that is their prerogative.
I am fortunate enough to stay home with my son so we spend all day every day together. We are attached at the hip and while I must admit that there are times, and days, where I could use a break to be by myself, I do love being with him continuously. What I still fail to grasp sometimes is the massive, huge, monumental amount of pressure that being home carries because every word, action and movement is under a two-year-old’s microscope.
Cubby, which is one of my son’s nicknames, has picked up some of my not so great behaviors such as my penchant for letting out exasperated, overly dramatic sighs when I am frustrated; or that he is incredibly indecisive when it comes to everything (paint colors for crafting, what to watch on movie nights, whether he wants ketchup or mustard with his chicken nuggets.)
The beautiful flip-side of that is that he has also picked up being sympathetic, empathetic, and has a massive amount of concern when it comes to other people. Maybe it is because he is my son and I am biased, but I believe he is the most in tuned with feelings child that I have ever met. If a family member is crying he instantly walks over, places his tiny hands on their arm, bows his head slightly and asks in a gentle tone, “what’s wrong?” then listens when they speak. Once they are done saying what is going on he rubs their arm and tells them it is going to be all right. He has caught me crying on more than one occasion and has snaked his arms around my neck to hug me and say, “You’re ok, mommy.”
My husband finally had a night off from work this past week and it fortunately coincided with one of those pop-up carnivals that travel around and setup shop in large parking lots such as a mall or a chain store. We arrived a few minutes before the ticket stand opened so we decided to try our luck at some of the games. He chose the game with the dozens of rows of little bowls that you try to sink a ping pong ball into with the prize being a goldfish. I have NEVER had any kind of skill when it comes to athletics and have an insane twitch when trying to throw things that makes whatever I am throwing go off in some insane direction (think: aiming for a fish tank straight in front of you and somehow the ball ends up over your left shoulder. There is no reason for it other than I have absolutely zero amount of athletic grace. Or aim. Or skill. Okay, I am horrible when it comes to sports except for being attached to the underdog players that rarely get off the bench.)
So, here we are with 20 ping pong balls placed in front of us and Cubby is throwing these things with wild abandon, but was having a blast. Then he sunk a ball, which means we got a gold fish! Then he sunk another ball, which meant that we now get TWO gold fish. Hooray for us. We have a beta fish at home that we got him back in November who we named Nipper Pickle Pants. We usually call him Nipper; he has his own lovely tank that is adorned with a police car sitting in the bottom of the tank.
The end of our carnival experience nears and while I stand in line to get myself a caramel apple to take home for a late-night snack I send my husband to collect the fish we won. Cubby carried his fish friend in the inflated bag and was so happy. Then he accidentally dropped the bag on the concrete which subsequently led to the bag springing a leak. I quickly placed my hand over the leak and ran to get a new bag before the fish could suffocate in my hands.
There I am, running through a carnival, telling a gold fish that costs 29 cents at the store to hold on because I am going to save him. He is a scrappy fish. He has got this- I have got this. I go to the game stand and she makes me wait while she beckons people to try and play, then yells as they decline. “I just need a new bag, please,” I tell her as the water count drops lower and lower and I coach the fish to just hold on a few more seconds. I get a new bag and the fish swims gleefully in the water as it can breathe again.
Back to the car I go so we can head home. Cubby names the new fish after his favorite superhero, which I am happy about as he is also my favorite superhero. Once we get home Cubby gets a bath and goes to bed and our new superhero fish is swimming around in his new home, which is placed next to our beta.
The next morning we wake up and head upstairs. I kiss my puppy good morning and then go to feed the fish. Our new superhero fish is dead, floating on top of the water with eyes and mouth open. He lasted less than 15 hours from when we got him. I quickly gave him a proper burial, never alerting my son because I thought he wouldn’t think about it.
I was wrong.
After waking up fully Cubby comes to say good morning to Nipper (our beta fish) and the new goldfish. He asks me quickly, “where is the new fish?” I try to play it off and tell him that Nipper is there, swimming around happily. He asks me where the new orange fish is and I am at a loss for how to explain it so I tell him the new fish has gone to see Jesus. Cubby said a simple, “oh” then went off the get one of his trains. A few moments later he went back to the kitchen.
Cubby is a climber. He will scale anything and everything he possibly can and does it quickly, despite the fact it causes me mild heart attacks every time he climbs, but I know it is a stage most children go through. He sets his train down, gets onto the stool that sits at the snack bar and crawls on the counter to sit next to Nipper. He places his face against the top of Nipper’s bowl and I listen in, not letting him know I was there. Then I hear the following conversation between my two-year-old son and our pet beta fish: “our friend is gone. That’s ok. It is ok to be sad. We can be sad, Nipper, our friend is gone. It’s ok.” He then continued to sit there with a hand on the fish tank side and face by the top so he can speak inside to the fish. He was comforting our beta without any prompting from me.
That is when I realized that my son has more compassion at two than some people I have met that are 30 times his age. I am such a proud momma of the little boy with the big, blue eyes that always has a nice word for everyone when they need one.
As parents it is up to us to lay down the foundation of how our children will grow up. We are responsible for sending them out into the world, and that is a lot of responsibility to shoulder sometimes. There will be days where tempers are lost, and frustrations get the best of us. Maybe we yell, maybe we shut down completely and sit and take time to collect ourselves. The beauty shines in the moments though where you don’t even realize that you are teaching your children about things like honesty, bravery, and empathy. While you are saying please and thank you to the woman at the checkout, you might not stop to think about how much that sticks with your children, but it does, and lessons like that carry through.