Here is a story I posted on a discussion board when Nicholas, now 6 years old, was 3. I still find it an encouraging reminder that in many ways he’s a really good person.
My 3-year-old has been demanding and rude and self-centered lately, and both parents and teachers have been struggling to get along with him…but the other night, he did something really cool:
We were eating in a Mexican restaurant. Nicholas got a small bit of taco shell stuck in his throat. (It must have been very small because we couldn’t see it and he could talk normally, but you know how that can hurt!) He had never had a corn-chip-related injury before and found it very upsetting. We suggested that he cough, drink some water, etc., but he just got more and more panicky. He started saying, “I have to get out of here!” Daniel and I were reluctant because we’d just started eating and were very hungry. Nicholas said, “I don’t mean go home, just out to the sidewalk.” I took one more bite, and out we went.
The moment the door closed behind us, he started a loud, high-pitched wailing and crying big tears. At that moment, I realized he had been restricting himself to a reasonable volume inside the restaurant! I hadn’t even noticed that his panicked protests were in pretty much a normal speaking voice so that we’d felt no need to shush him. HE REMEMBERED TO BE POLITE EVEN WHEN HE WAS UPSET, AND ASKED TO GO OUTSIDE SO HE COULD VENT HIS FEELINGS! I am amazed! A lot of adults can’t manage that!
I crouched on the sidewalk hugging him for a long time while he cried. After a while he said the piece of chip had come out but the spot still hurt and he was still scared. Eventually he was done…and then he said, “Let’s finish our dinner.” We went back to the table. He picked up the remainder of his taco and said, “I will trade it for the rest of your soft thing [enchilada]. Eat it carefully, Mama.”
I guess he is turning out okay after all.
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