Conversation between me and T1 at our niece's Bat Mitzvah this past weekend:
Me: Oh look, honey, you get to sit at a table with all kids; you don't have to sit with your parents. Won't that be fun?
T1: Okay. I want to sit with G (cousin) and all the other boys.
Me: Let's see. Oh, you're at the (Broadway-themed) "Hairspray" table and G is at the "Fiddler on the Roof" table.
T1: No! I don't want to sit at the "Hairspray" table. It's a bunch of girls!! I want to sit with G!
Me: But his table is full. There are already nine 10-year-old boys at that table. Your at the table with the littler kids.
T1: I WANT TO SIT AT G'S TABLE!! I DON'T WANT TO SIT WITH ALL GIRLS!!
(Tantrum escalating--speeches ensuing from the stage--7-year-old voice carrying with amazing range in the auditorium acoustics--me beginning to feel heads turning and eyes glaring)
Me: Calm down, honey. There's nothing I can do about it. (My voice starting to raise too as I pull him by the hand into the bathroom).
Me: (virtual steam rising from my ears.....voice in my head saying, "oh suck it up, little guy. It's just a dinner. My God! but actually saying:) How about you sit with Daddy and me? There are other cousins at our table.
T1: I want to sit with G!
Me: There are no seats there. You CAN'T sit there. Want Daddy and me to sit with you at the "Hairspray" table?
T1: Nooooooo. I won't do it!!!!!
Me: (exasperated) I'm guessing this situation is making you feel left out. Like you don't belong where you've been put. How would you like this situation to be? How can you solve this problem?
T1: I want you to ask Aunt B to put another chair at G's table. Just go ask her.
Me: (wanting so badly to rectify this "gross injustice" as I figure this MUST feel to my son. Wanting to swoop in and stop the tantrum, the disappointment, the frustration, but knowing that doing so will cripple my son in the future when he must manage any and all situations when he doesn't get what he wants when he wants it)
Me: No. . . . I can't do that.
T1: Pleeeeeessssee, Mommy? (gasp, sob)
Me: What can YOU do?
T1: Can I ask G to put another chair at his table?
Me: That may be a good plan. Why don't you try it.
(T1 runs off to consult with G about all things boy that, I was beginning to quickly learn, include being sat at the right table. I hold my breath, watching over the ballroom as the exchange goes on. I try not to look. I don't want to see the tear-stained face return, crest fallen because I know what's going to happen next. He's gone. He doesn't come back. I reluctantly sit down to my own dinner, anxious. Where is he? What happened? Should I go look for him? Is he okay? Is he crying somewhere in a corner? Is he at G's table? I spy him. He's got a plate of food; he's headed for G's table. A chair is waiting for him. Wow, he did it, I say to myself.)
We are so much alike, T1 and I. Every milestone he makes over his sensitivity and social awkwardness is a triumph for me. It's something I struggled with so much in my childhood and want so badly for him not to have to feel. But I know it's going to happen. Can I sit on my hands and let him have his moments? Even the disappointing ones? I'm going to have to. That's my job.
Remind me to call my mom and tell her I appreciate all the anguish she must have endured raising us. Think I'm going to go get her a medal....