“When You Can’t Kiss It and Make It All Better”
There’s not a lot you can say to a four-year-old with ADHD when his best friend breaks up with him.
There’s no worse pain as a mother than when your child is hurting. I don’t mean the I-fell-down-and-scraped-my-knee kind of hurting or even the I-got-a-shot-at-the-pediatrician type of hurting. I mean the emotional hurt, the kind where you can’t kiss it and make it better.
I am a sensitive soul. My mother recalls one of the first times I felt that emotional pain. I was in kindergarten, and I loved to draw. I drew pictures of everything. I loved all of my new kindergarten friends. Each day I drew pictures for all of my friends and put them in their cubbies. Now, I don’t remember this, but I’ve been told that I saw a friend take the picture out of his or her cubby, criticize it, and throw it in the trash. My mom recounts the pain she felt as my tiny heart sank.
Now, flash forward to earlier this year, when I experienced my attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) son’s first friendship heartbreak at the age of three. On the car ride home, we were discussing the day’s events.
Me: How was your day?
Calvin: I don’t want to talk about it.
Me: Uh-oh. Well, what about the playground? Who did you play with on the playground?
Calvin: No one. “A” told me that he didn’t want to be my friend anymore.
My heart broke. There’s not a lot that you can say to a three-year-old when his best friend breaks up with him, especially given the fact that they’ll probably be friends again within the week. The pain increased later in the week when I asked about his girlfriend “B.”
Me: Hey, did you play with B today?
Calvin: No. She doesn’t want to be married anymore.
Emily: Oh, she just wants to be friends?
Calvin: No. She wants to be married to someone else, so she can’t play with me anymore.
As he tells me this, his voice begins to get quiet and he begins to tear up. There’s nothing I can say to make it better. Hugs, kisses, and ice cream help, but that pain isn’t something that I can kiss and make better. Luckily that same week, we were asked by C & D to make a play date, and A & B came around.
But then, Calvin’s behavior issues became a serious problem at school, and he was asked not to return. I decided to homeschool him and did my best to make things fun for him. But there’s no denying that something is missing from his homeschool curriculum: his friends.
On the very first day of the New Year, we went for a hike with the Free Forest School. I explained what was happening: “Hey, buddy, we won’t be going to school anymore, but mommy and Calvin will be having a lot of fun at home. Today we’re going for a hike and we’re meeting friends there.”
In hindsight, I see my mistake. Calvin heard “meeting friends,” and when we got to the trailhead, he assumed his friends would be there, not new friends. He exploded with emotion, forcing me to re-explain the expulsion from school. He calmed himself and was able to move on. Later that day, when my husband returned home, he asked, “Daddy, can I write a letter to my teachers to apologize? Then I can go back to school.”
It was a dagger to the heart. Explaining to a four-year-old that saying sorry doesn’t always fix things, and that no matter how many times he apologized, he wouldn’t be welcome. There is some pain that you can’t kiss away.
Then there was today. I was folding laundry and he walked into the bedroom.
Calvin: “I had a bad dream last night.”
Me: “Oh, no. Was it scary?”
Calvin: “Um… no. I dreamed that I had no friends and nobody liked me.”
Me: “Oh, no. That’s sounds like a very bad dream. Good thing it was just a dream. You know you still have your friends, right?”
Calvin: “Yea…but I never can play with them.”
Unfortunately, he is right. His friends go to school during the week, and we have the opportunity to play with them only on the weekends. Last weekend we were out of town, and this week he had the flu. That means it will be another full week until he can see his old friends.
I can introduce him to new friends during the week. Maybe we’ll eventually find a school that fits his needs. But in the meantime, I held him while he sobbed into my arms. I told him how much I loved him. I told him what a good boy he is. I kissed him and hugged him. Unfortunately, there are times when a parent can’t kiss it and make it all better.