This post was written by Liz Faria.
My son has been having a tough day. He’s only three, and doesn’t know what a pandemic is, so maybe that’s why, up until now, I haven’t been too concerned about his emotional adjustment to things. I’ve been more concerned about my 6-year-old, who understands that we’re trying not to get sick, and understands that he’s not in Kindergarten with his friends anymore. He knows he’s missing something. My 3-year-old? Well, who knows what goes on in the heads of toddlers.
But earlier today, he just kept crying and losing it over everything. The tears would stream down his cheeks at the slightest provocation.
We went outside to play, and on the way back into the house he slipped and smashed his head into the floor. My first thought was, “I cannot take this kid to the ER right now.” I rushed to pick him up and offer him ice cream, because I knew if he was willing to accept ice cream, he was probably okay enough not to go to a doctor. He ate the ice cream. And then he immediately began sobbing, for the umpteenth time today. This time it was because I didn’t completely cover the bottom of his dish with ice cream. He just kept pointing to the bare spot, crying and crying.
My patience was pretty thin, and I snapped at him. What else did he want?? And then the tears kept coming, and I took a longer look at that pudgy little boy in his PJs, crying over nothing.
Finally, I realized, more clearly than I have since this all began, that he’s not crying over nothing. He’s crying because he’s small, and doesn’t have all the words, and he’s full of big feelings. And because, like the rest of us, his daily routines have been entirely upended. He hasn’t seen his favorite teachers in weeks. He hasn’t played with anyone his age. He hasn’t been able to wrestle with his grandpa or play at the park. He may not be scared, but his life has certainly been disrupted.
So, I gave him one extra scoop of ice cream, spreading it in his dish to cover the small space that was bare. The bare space that made him break down in tears. Because it’s not just about a little space in an ice cream dish. It’s about all the other spaces that are left empty in his world.
And it’s about how I need to hold a space for him too.
Liz Faria is a Mommy Shorts contributor and a licensed independent social worker. She’s has been working with children and families for 19 years and chronicles her own tales of motherhood on her blog A Mothership Down.