Protective Instincts ~ or ~ Don’t Laugh at my Baby!

It’s very very late, and I most definitely should be sleeping, but I just had to get this post out of my head first (shame on you, stubborn brain).  I experienced something the other day, a parenting first, if you will.  I had taken Alex to baby story time at our library.  It was only the second time we’d gone, and the first time was before the holidays so with the gap it was pretty much like the first time.  Alex had just had a couple of rough days of teething complete with fever and disrupted sleep and all, so he was in a pretty emotional fragile state.  As soon as we entered the room he wanted to turn around and face me with his back to the other babies and moms.  When he sat on my lap in the circle I think he would have melted into me to become invisible if it were possible.  He was the only baby to cry during the parachute game when we all bounced giant pom poms on a big round parachute.  He was so shy during the whole story time and into the play time afterward where big bins of fun toys are brought out and all the babies get to play together (I really love this, by the way).

Near the end of play time Alex was finally starting to warm up and had relinquished his duda (pacifier) and ventured from the safety of my lap, but he was still not so sure of himself.  He was standing kind of in the middle of the room just watching a couple of other kids play.  Some other moms noticed how he was standing there so still and mesmerized almost looking like he was there to supervise (it’s tough not to notice the biggest but not oldest kid in the room) and were chuckling about it.  They all meant it with the kindest and most endearing humor of course, but when Alex looked up at them talking about him and laughing, he had the most vulnerable expression on his face and I had the strangest heart-wrenching feeling, like maybe in the next moment he was going to feel like they were laughing AT him with hurtful intent and start crying and run away.  I guess I felt like these mommies were going to hurt my baby’s feelings. 

Now, I don’t know if Alex is even old enough to get his feelings hurt that way, but I’ve realized that I’m extra sensitive about his shyness.  He’s only been shy recently, and I know that this is a normal baby phase he’s going through.  He was never shy like this before now, so I don’t even know if he’s a shy kid or not, but I was a shy kid.  Painfully shy.  Like scared to death of my peers shy.  And it makes me want to just defend his shyness right and left.  “Don’t laugh at his shyness!  Just let him warm up to things at his own pace!”  I definitely don’t want to ever try to force him to prematurely jump in when he isn’t ready.  I remember those types of situations being terrifying for me as a kid.  Of course, I was much older when those memories happened.  I’m pretty sure that at Alex’s age I was blissfully unaware of my own shyness or awkwardness or my tendency to not fit in, but as an adult I of course can’t help but project my own feelings onto my son.

Anyway, I didn’t realize until I began to think tonight about that moment, but it was the first time I felt like I wanted to protect my little boy’s heart from being hurt by others.  Even though those others were warm, well-intentioned adults.  It was the first time Alex had looked so vulnerable out in his little social world.  If I’m so affected but something so small, what am I going to do the first time someone really is mean to Alex?  The first time a friend ignores him?  The first time someone calls him a name?  The first time someone makes fun of him?  The first time someone breaks his heart?  I can’t even think about it.

I just pray he inherited all the confidence and coolness and bravado of his father.  But if not, if he’s a shy, awkward, fearful child, at least I’ll really understand him.

[By the way, by the time we left the library, Alex was running around and pointing at things and making happy noises and didn’t want to leave. 🙂 ]

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