Parents love milestones, some get way too into them, everyone worries a little about them and most talk or brag just a smidge once they have been achieved. First tooth, first step, first word, potty trained, abcs, counting, reading, shoe tying, the list could go on and on with landmark first events that remind us our kids are growing up.
But some of the milestones are silent and maybe even painful. The first time they turn down a kiss or hug, the last time they say a word that cute incorrect way, or the first time they aren’t accepted.
At some point someone is going to reject your child and they may not even notice. But you will. They may notice and not care. But you will. They may care and do something about it. It will still hurt you.
Maybe your child isn’t invited to a party you see their friends at on facebook, maybe they are left out of play, maybe they are the only ones that don’t get asked on playdates, it can be a million things. What I can guarantee you is that it will hurt you, quite possibly more than your child.
Some parents may be spared this milestone for years, it may even seem a charmed few somehow skip it but if you are the parent of a quirky child you will probably see this one early…and maybe often.
My son mentioned that a subset of his friends at a weekly event we attend always say he’s the “bad guy” and run away from him. He asks them if he can play with them but they continue to pretend he’s a bad guy and run from him. He’s a little quirky, socially a little anxious, often dressed in costumes, refuses to pretend to like things he doesn’t and unapologetically loves the things he loves. These traits make him an interesting human being, they make me proud that he knows who he is and embraces the way God made him …and they make him stick out in a group of preschoolers.
At this age most kids just want to do what their friends are doing, they want to be liked and if there are bigger kids (like these boys) around they want to seem “cool”. 4-6 is a hard age because for the first time they begin to struggle with who they are and who they think they ought to be to be “popular” (thus why being a copycat is such an issue at this stage). My son won’t pretend to like scary movies or hide the fact he still loves Elmo and Mickey and it’s not going to earn him fans in an age group where conformity is the standard.
Does he care that the same kids exclude him every week? Yes, he tells me so.
Does it hurt his feelings? A little.
Is he willing to be someone else so they will like him more? No.
Does my heart hurt for him? Yep.
Do I wish I could fix it? Yes.
Will I? No, because he will be dealing with shallow people his whole life and the more practice he has the better.
So we’ve reached the first time my child has really been rejected and I am certain there are a lifetime more ahead but I am thankful that he is strong enough person already to let it roll off his back and pray he continues to for years to come. It’s not a milestone you’ll find in a scrapbook, you won’t treasure the memory but it will come just the same.
And someday my child will probably unintentionally help some other kid reach this milestone too, I pray they too continue to be who they are in the face of rejection.