I first noticed it a few months ago when he started “big boy” school and he asked me not to hold his hand in the parking lot. I told myself I was overthinking it and tried to look past it.
A few weeks later we started running into issues getting dressed for school. If it was a 3T he would freak out saying he only wore 4T’s. Didn’t matter if the shirt still fit..he was 4, so it had to be a 4T. I tried explaining to him that sizes don’t necessarily coordinate with your age. He didn’t believe me. If it was a 3T it was for BABIES.
Then one day we forgot his change of shoes in the van. He begged me to go get them so he didn’t have to wear his boots in class. He got all teary-eyed and said “please, mom.. please?!?” It was like he learned the please-don’t-embarrass-me-mom look overnight. I bundled up Lucas, and ran back to the van. I couldn’t bear the thought of him feeling ashamed or embarrassed over something so easy for me to correct.
And then it happened. Monday night, Ethan and I were talking and then he got quiet. Ethan only gets quiet when he’s thinking about something very intently. So I asked him. “What’s wrong, Ethan?” I wasn’t prepared for what came next.
Ethan: “Mom, why didn’t I get to stay up way past my bedtime like everyone else?”
Me: “What do you mean?” (I knew where this was going..)
Ethan: “All the other kids got to stay up way past their bedtime for New Year’s and I didn’t. I was the only one who didn’t. Why didn’t you let me?”
It felt like I got sucker-punched. Hard. Gulp. Tears…mine. Guilt. Horror. Shock. Nausea. I felt it all. I was DEVASTATED.
All I could think was that I tried for over 4 years to keep him from this day, this feeling, THAT moment. All the times he puked in class. All the times he missed out on snack because some selfish, ignorant parent brought in peanuts when the sign clearly read “PEANUT-FREE zone”. All the times he got a look because he was sucking his thumb in public. All the times he wouldn’t sing in front of a crowd. All the times he got in trouble at the store. All the times he fell on his skateboard. All those times I desperately tried to keep him from feeling embarrassed…and here he was mortified because I didn’t let him stay up to watch the ball drop.
I started off slow..”Ethan, I’m soooo sorry. I had no idea you had any interest in watching the ball drop.” His reply? “What ball?” Exactly.my.point. He had no idea what new year’s eve was about other than it was the night before 2011. He’s 4. He wouldn’t know who any of the performers were. He wouldn’t understand what the announcers were talking about or why Jenny McCarthy was pretending to kiss stupid guys in the crowd. And I knew he would never make it until midnight because my boy loves to sleep. It never entered my mind that he would care. And it certainly never crossed my mind that he would be embarrassed in class because he didn’t get to. It had nothing to do with not letting him, until class, he had no idea there was anything even going on.
I explained to him that he did get to stay up later than normal because I knew he could sleep in the next day (which WAS true to some extent). I told him that he probably just didn’t realize it… and he went with it. Or at least he seemed to.
Man, I knew this day was coming, but I had no idea it would happen this early. My first born is growing up. The emotions are in full swing and the days I can keep him protected in a bubble are numbered. And I’m sooo not ready for that.