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Today in music class, a boy hit my son on the forehead with a metal mallet (meant for the triangle or some other kid percussion instrument). It wasn’t that hard, but my son sort of slowly broke down and I eventually took him out of the room to have a break from all the noise and kids. He wasn’t hysterical, he just… fell apart. He recovered just fine, but he didn’t want to go back in so we didn’t. We waited outside for a few minutes until the class ended so we could say goodbye to the teacher and so he could see the class through in a way that was comfortable for him.

He was really looking forward to the class today, too. All week he had been imitating this thing the teacher does and then when I opened the car door to go to the class, he said “MUSIC CLASS!” (sounds like “MUKAKS!”). He’s been a bit socially averse lately and I was happy to see him excited about this.

So it kind of broke my heart that he had this experience. I don’t blame the other kid; he was just being a toddler and while that’s not cool behavior for anyone, toddlers have to learn from these things and his nanny handled it well. But it did ruin the class for my son on a day when he had really mustered up some excitement in spite of the social stuff, which is hard for him.

As he gets older, certain aspects of his personality are becoming more and more clear. There’s no question that he’s an introvert who needs time to warm up in social settings, but as I see him in more diverse milieus, I can see that he also tends to be more passive and sensitive to the actions of the louder, tougher kids. He’s not the kid who gets knocked down and doesn’t even notice. He really appears to feel defeated when these things happen, particularly when he’s being jostled around by other kids. Sometimes it can shut down the entire experience for him.

And this should surprise no one, by the way, since my husband and I are both exactly the same way.

One of the “coaches” at his little gym class (music and gym, that’s all we do, promise.) said, “He’s a little observer!”

Yes, he is. I know that calling a quiet kid an “observer” is a nice way of saying that he’s not really getting in the mix with the other kids, just as calling an out-of-control kid “spirited” is a nice way of saying that he’s kind of a pain in the ass. It doesn’t bother me, but I know what these words mean. If the next one (ten more weeks!) turns out to be “spirited,” please feel free to call her that. I won’t be offended. It is what it is. I’ll still love her.

I like the observers, though. I like the quiet, passive, introverted kids. They are my favorite people. I don’t lament that my child turned out to be this way (quite the opposite, obviously) and I think, if he can find ways to manage these tendencies without losing himself or turning angry, he’ll turn out to be a really great human. Sometimes these experiences can build strength. Sometimes, the opposite happens. But I am just starting to realize that we’re probably going to have many of these difficult moments over the next few years. I just hope he can make it through.

Art credit: Lisa Golightly

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