Jason is a tough kid... but he is also sensitive... tenderhearted.
A few weeks ago he told me the boy he sits with on the bus was telling him he wasn't cool. He's stuck sitting with this boy because they have assigned seats. I gave Jason some suggestions on how to deal with it, he tried some of those things and it eventually stopped... for a while anyways. Every once in a while it happens again.
This week there are more hurtful words. Jason has a fun imagination and he is confident in who he is most days and does his own thing. Sometimes he wears a suit and tie to school simply because he wants to. Lately, he's on a cowboy kick. He doesn't really have cowboy clothes, but he has a hat he likes to pretend is a cowboy hat, and he'll say things like "howdy partner" with what he thinks is a cowboy accent.
He's having fun.
He's enjoying life.
Until the boy on the bus tells Jason over and over that he is NOT a cowboy.
This morning as Jason was getting ready for school and again pretending to be a cowboy...
JASON: George keeps saying I'm not a cowboy.
ME: Weelll... you aren't actually a cowboy are you?
ME: But I can see it still hurts your feelings when George says things like that to you.
JASON: Yeah... when he tells me I'm not cool or I'm not a cowboy, it makes me feel like I'm nothing.
Break. My. Heart.
We stopped everything. At that moment it didn't matter if we missed the bus and were late to school because something more important needed to happen. My sweet, tenderhearted Jason needed to be reminded of who and what he is.
I pulled my favorite boy onto my lap, gave him a big squeeze, and just started speaking words of encouragement to him. Words that built him back up. Words that reminded him he is far more than nothing.
You aren't nothing Jason!
You are so many things!
You are kind.
You are thoughtful of others.
You are smart.
You are creative and inventive.
You are a great soccer player.
You are a world changer.
You are loved, loved, loved!
And most importantly, you are mine.
And then we came up with a list of nice things Jason could say to George next time he said something that hurt. We talked about being kind even when others aren't.
I wish I could shield Jason (and Liza!) from all the hurtful things in the world... but I can't. I can only give them the tools to continue facing life when life hurts them. Hopefully they will grow up strong and confident.
And hopefully there are a whole lot of other parents out there teaching their children about how hurtful words hurt feelings.
PS... Obviously the kid's real name is not George. I don't even know a George.