Saturday, February 04, 2012

A Mama Knows


When I picked up Jada and Aaron last night from school, almost immediately Jada lit into me, as she often does, for always picking up Aaron first instead of her. Hey, I can't help that it is more efficient to enter the school, pick up Aaron, pick up Jada, and head home, all in one direction, rather than doubling back. I think she likes seeing Aaron's classroom, and hence the lobbying that I get her first. Anyway, nothing out of the ordinary yet.

As we pass her school playground heading home, another common complaint arises: "Can I go play with my friends?" Never mind that it is pitch dark, it is cold, and I am tired and hungry. Also, I need to get home and get the kids fed, because Amy's friends are coming over so I want us to be clear of the first floor by the time they arrive. I explain this to Jada, expecting her to put up a little bit of a fight and then eventually relinquish and trudge home with Aaron and me.

Instead, she practically falls in a heap crying. Her friends always get to play, and she never gets to play. I caringly and firmly tell Jada not to go there: different kids get to do different things, and she gets to do just plenty of fun things, but now we have to head home. She buries her head in my side and cries the whole walk home, and when we arrive home, I say out loud, "Mama, somebody needs to be comforted."

While I unpack our stuff and get the kitchen ready for dinner, Amy gets down to Jada's level and listens. As I hustle back in their direction, Amy gives me a look, as if to say, "slow down and listen to what Jada is saying, because it's important." I pause, kneel down, and tell her to tell me what's going on. She frantically recounts about not getting picked up first and never getting to go to the park, but she starts off with something about a dragon that I can't quite understand. I ask her to repeat the first thing. She says "I didn't get to go inside the dragon."

Ah ha. So there is more to her pain than that which was related to my arrival at school. As she tearfully recounts her day, she tells Amy and me that there was a paper dragon for Chinese New Year, and a lot of her friends got to go inside the dragon's head and dance around, but she only got to hold the dragon's tail. Even worse, in her mind, she was the only Chinese girl in the whole group, and since this was all about Chinese New Year, it seemed terribly unfair that she didn't get a turn in the dragon's head. Being left out of something fun is no fun for a little girl, especially when it is something as important as her identity as a Chinese girl.

I froze as I thought of how similar episodes might play out in the future: being teased for being adopted, not being liked by any boys, being shunned by the popular girls in her school. I had no words of comfort, only to pick her up and squeeze her tight, my actions desperately communicating what I didn't think I could say with my mouth, which was that she was terribly special to me, and that it pained me to think that she was feeling hurt for feeling left out.

And to think that had it not been for Amy's ability to perceive that more was simmering under the surface, I might have zipped through the rest of our evening routine without Jada being able to express any of these hurts. Unlike Aaron, she isn't much of a deep feeler, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have moments like these. I'm thankful that Amy had that motherly intuition to pry it out of her, and that motherly tenderness to dispense the lion's share of the hugs she needed to feel better.
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