On the way home after an evening outing with some friends, I asked my youngest if he had a good time.
“Sort of,” he answered. “But the kids on the playground were teasing me.”
“About what?” I asked. He sometimes reacts strongly to comments, so I assumed it wasn’t a big deal.
“Eric said he saw a picture of me sleeping while doing homework, and then Leslie said she saw it too, and all the kids started laughing.”
I didn’t know how to respond. I had posted a photo on Facebook of my son sleeping at his desk, his homework beside him. I had thought it was cute. My son puts his all into his activities, but when he’s tired, he’s tired. And he sleeps.
It runs in my family. My siblings and I know that once we reach a certain point of fatigue, we can’t push past it. Sleep is the only solution. My son has somehow learned that early. When he’s tired, even if it’s when we’re about to sing happy birthday at a party or when he’s supposed to be finishing up his homework, he will sleep.
My husband and I understand that and work around it. Our son’s teachers, for the most part, have also been understanding that at times he might fall asleep at his desk. I try to get him to bed on time when he’ll have an early morning or a long day.
Parents and teachers generally understand these things. Other kids often don’t.
When I posted the photo, I didn’t think about the possibility of parents showing their kids the “cute” post, which in the mind of a child might not be “cute” but “silly” or “funny” or “embarrassing.” Material to tease with.
Something I had done unthinkingly caused my son hurt. It cast him in a negative light in the minds of his friends. They probably forgot about it a minute later, and they were all playing again. But that moment, I had to admit to my boy that it wasn’t their fault; it was mine.
I pulled up the Facebook photo and showed it to my son, saying, “I posted this photo of you the other day. I didn’t think anyone would tease you about it.” Then I promised, “I won’t post anything of you unless I ask you first.” I already have that agreement with other members of my immediate family, but I didn’t think it would matter to my youngest. I was wrong.
It’s strange I would make a mistake like that. Thinking back to my own childhood, my strongest emotions resulted from teasing. I can remember half a dozen separate occasions, before the age of five, where I was brought to tears by teasing. Painful moments tend to remain in the mind and the heart long after the echo of the actual words fade.
How often do my own words or side comments have the same effect as those children on the playground? When I’m trying to focus on work, and after one too many interruptions, snap at the kids, telling them to leave me alone so I can get something done. Or when they’re arguing and I can’t stand the contention, so I tell them I don’t care who said what and whose fault it is—I just want peace.
After careful reflection, I vowed to see every moment of life through the eyes of my child.That’s not a promise I can make, nor one I can keep, but it is something I can try. Not a once-and-for-all decision, but a moment-by-moment choice. To slow down. To think. To pray. To love.
Photo and article courtesy of Activated magazine. Used by permission.