The other day, Dale Jr. and I were driving away from the J-Man’s school to make the 15-minute trip to his preschool. Parenting a neurotypical three-year-old is proving to be a completely novel experience from moment to moment for me. I never quite know what insight he’s going to come up with next, and that trip between J’s school and his is when he often shares particularly creative insights into the world.
With no preamble at all, he begins, “Daddy?”
“Do you remember that time [one of our autism parent friends] was crying and you gave her a hug and helped her with [child’s name]?”
“Yes, I do,” as I remarked with some astonishment the fact that this had occurred many, many weeks earlier. “It’s good to give our friends hugs and help them when they are sad.”
“Yeah.” He paused thoughtfully for a long, few seconds. “The other day, I fell on the playground.”
“Yes, I remember. You scraped your hand.”
“Yeah, and I was really sad. And [classmate’s name] came over and helped me up and gave me a hug and I felt better.”
“Yes. That was very nice of [name].”
“Next time when one of my friends falls down on the playground, I’m going to help them up and give them a hug and make them feel better.”
He got it. I felt such overwhelming pride in him.
We live in a world where help and comfort are so often handed out based on whether we think someone deserves it or has earned it. As families, we receive aid and support based on a formula in a budget. We are judged by passers-by in stores who don’t think we are adequate parents and that our kids would ‘behave better’ if we didn’t suck at parenting. If we do get help, it’s so often considered pity or charity by a society that simply does not get it.
Dear world – my son would like to tell you how it’s done. If someone is sad, comfort them. If someone falls down, help them up. If someone is struggling, give them a hug and help them feel better. That’s it. Don’t overthink this.
It’s a tough playground out there, y’all. Be good to each other.