…he shouted in desperation. Everything about him screamed that he had been attacked. He sat there frozen, lunged forward with a furrowed brow and pointed grimace. His muscles, tense and on guard. But his eyes, as piercing as they were, were ready to burst into tears if that other kid didn’t back down. Pain, overwhelm. The toy cars wait for a verdict.
Socializing is hard. Hard work, hard emotions. At five years old, a child is going through a lot. We underestimate the intensity of their life – even during play. They don’t always get what they want when that’s exactly what their tiny bodies demand. They don’t always get the down time they so desperately need. They don’t always get their words or feelings across, and are stuck, stuck inside feeling… just… so… much.
The other little boy sat there, facing a wall of emotion that was ready to launch into a million bricks. He was perplexed, because he did nothing. He was just playing. So he faced that wall in silence, and handed over the toy. Cease fire.
I could almost feel the tension melt. Life moved on as if nothing had happened, because nothing did, right? But something did for that little boy who screamed about sharing and caring. His elated sigh was not audible, but palpable. Crisis averted means a backlog of emotions that have been temporarily appeased to only add up – and possibly explode – at the next chance.
So the next time you see a child have a meltdown, remember that it’s not about sharing a toy, or tying a shoe, or not getting candy. Remember in that moment that being a kid is hard work.