My kids have such tender hearts, and I know from personal experience how great it is to feel so deeply, but also how much it can hurt. It's one thing to feel pain yourself, and another to stand by and watch your children in pain, and not be able to take it away from them. Hugging them, and offering encouraging words helps a little, but it doesn't remove it, and I find this aspect of parenting very hard indeed.
Ava has had a difficult week. She was concerned about her field trip, and then cried in the van for ten minutes at the door of the school yesterday morning. I held her hand, and waited with her until the storm had passed, and wanted desperately to drive her home where she felt safe and secure and not send her out into the big, bad world when she was feeling so fragile and vulnerable.
I knew she had to go to school. It was like being between a rock and a hard place, knowing that the overall lesson was more important than the momentary relief of her discomfort, but I felt mean doing what I thought was the right thing. I walked her into the school, a sacrifice in itself because I was wearing my pajamas, and hugged her, then watched her walk down the hall away from me, tears still in her eyes. There wasn't a single thing I could do to take away her sadness.
I called her teacher, and also the wonderful child development advisor at her school, and told them that she was having a hard time. It's been an emotional and busy week for her, with her Nana visiting, her birthday, her field trip and a slow recovery from a tough illness. I felt a little better when I hung up the phone, but still powerless to help her navigate the difficult maze of her own emotions in the school environment. I didn't want anyone to laugh at her or hurt her in any way, but I also know that for the rest of her life she will need to develop skills to help her through these peaks and valleys, and today was a good chance to practice.
I worried about her on and off during the day, and prayed for her, and was relieved to see her smiling face after school. When one of her classmates told me at the door, "Ava cried again today," I responded with, "Don't you ever feel sad sometimes? It happens to everyone." The girl was surprised by the strength of my response, but I want Ava to know it is okay to not always be okay, and that those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter.
We picked her up and went to meet Jason at a restaurant for a last meal with Nana before her flight. It had been such a fun visit, relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable, and I knew it was going to be hard all around to say goodbye. I love where we live, but hate that these wonderful grandparents for our kids are now a province away. Life is filled with love and with loss, choices which bring wonderful outcomes but also tremendous heartache. Everywhere you turn there is a choice, and you never get every single thing you want.
We hugged goodbye at the gate, and watched until she was gone from sight, swallowed up into the maze of security. When we began to walk away, I looked at both of the faces of my sweet young children, and saw what I'm sure my face looked like when I said goodbye to my Granny as a kid or my mom as an adult when I lived in BC and she lived here. Crestfallen, lost, bereft. I said, "Are you sad to say goodbye?" and they both nodded, keeping the stiff upper lip, until finally William couldn't take it anymore, and his face crumpled.
I pulled him to the wall, away from people, and held him while his whole body shook with sobs. Jason hugged Ava while she cried, and we looked at each other over the heads of these precious little people whom we love so much, and let their tender hearts have their free rein. So much can hurt us when we love deeply, but I'm happy to model that for my kids. I cried with them, appreciating the kind of Nana they have been blessed with, and recognizing myself as a child when I looked at them and saw their sensitivity.
There is no hiding a tender heart. You can protect it the best you can, but when the chips are down, you will show how vulnerable you really are, and if all goes well and you are understood and loved, you have the chance to make a deep impact on this world.