In Nathan’s preschool class last year, there was a little boy named Aaron.* For reasons that were never explained, Aaron seemed to have a harder time than most settling in. At drop off and pick up, he was frequently seen bolting out of sight of his grandfather, who appeared to be his primary caregiver. Many of Nathan’s stories at the end of the day included an anecdote about how, “everyone got a sticker for being a good listener in music class … except Aaron,” and how, “Aaron pushed me down the slide on the playground today.”
One day, Nathan asked me why Aaron did those things. “Why doesn’t he make better choices?” he asked. “It makes me not want to be his friend.”
“Well buddy,” I said, choosing my words carefully. “Aaron seems to have a hard time controlling his words and his actions. It’s harder for him to make good choices about what to say and do, than it is for you. He probably gets frustrated, and that’s when problems happen. Do you know what you could do to help him?”
Big brown eyes met mine in the review mirror, and he shook his head slowly.
“You see, Aaron – and other boys and girls like him – need extra patience and kindness from you,” I explained. “I know it’s easy to get frustrated or mad at him, but it’s really important that you try your best to show him what making good choices looks like. And that includes being a good friend to him. If he sees you being kind, that might help him be kind, too.”
Nathan said nothing, and we soon switched to talking about stopping to play at the park on the way home, but I prayed my words planted a seed in his mind.
Weeks later, preschool had ended and he was headed to a week of Vacation Bible School (the struggle to keep an active kid occupied is real). Ever my social boy, he was mostly excited and looking forward to making new friends. On the way there the first morning, he jabbered on about what they might do and who he might know. Then he grew quiet for a moment and he asked, “Mom, what will I do if there’s someone like Aaron there?”
My eyebrows raised; we hadn’t talked about Aaron since that drive home two months prior. Keeping my voice even, I lobbed the question back to Nathan – “Well bud, what do you think you should do?”
I watched him glance out the window, his brow puckering in thought just like mine does. A small smile played on his lips and he said, “I’ll be extra kind and patient … right Mom? Because it’s not easy for everyone to do that, but when I’m doing extra it makes it easier for them.”
My heart felt like it would burst and my eyes filled with tears of pride, and I said, “that’s right, buddy. I’m really proud of you, you know?” He beamed and gave me his “no big deal” shrug.
It’s hard work, this mothering gig. So much of it feels thankless and fruitless: I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve given the exact same set of instructions over … and over … and over.
But every once in awhile, you get a gift. You plant the seed of an important lesson in their hearts and cover it with prayer in the hopes it will take root. At first, you eagerly check for progress every single day. You are dismayed when the landscape looks unchanged though; maybe you did something wrong. Maybe it was too early in the season, or you didn’t pick the best spot. Then one day, when you’ve finally quit looking for any signs of growth, you see it. It’s just one tentative little green shoot, but the evidence is there all the same.
Your seed found fertile soil and has sprung to life.
* name changed