We live in a neighborhood with many children, but for a variety of reasons they haven’t much played casually outside together… until now. The upside of this is that inside is easier for Max – playing outside is hard for him. It is frustrating and stressful when it is supposed to be fun and carefree.
A new neighbor has appeared and with them … boys… young boys, between Sophie’s age and Max’s and their friends. Outside boys, fun boys, nice boys, regular boys. They come over to our yard and bring boyhood with them. For Sophie, this is intriguing and new and for Max it is ridiculously attractive and simultaneously horrific. He cannot keep up with them. They are kind and do their best to include him, but young boy legs move very very very fast. Max usually lasts 10 minutes and then there are tears…. Friday after school… after the initial 10 minutes, this is what could be overheard in our living room…
“Max, you go outside right now, get in your walker and play with those kids.”
“They don’t want to play with me, they are being mean,”
“They are not being mean… you have to figure this out. You are just frustrated.”
“I don’t want to go, I am staying here.”
“Look, I know it stinks, playing outside will never be easy, and you will always have to work at it, but you get in your walker, and you go over there and you play… Right Now. This is YOUR DEFINING MOMENT… you make a choice right now and you decide who Max Rubin is – Who is Max Rubin?”
“Max is super awesome.”
“Yes, he is the most awesome and YOU must choose right now whether you are going to play or whether you are going sit here and be miserable.”
“Which one will it be?”
“OK, I will go in the backyard and I will play by myself for a while. I will have fun and then they can all come to the backyard later.”
I let him go by himself. I stayed away and he got himself on the swing, swung alone peacefully for a while and soon enough all the kids came around back.
He found his solution.
I reflected on the seriousness of my words and felt a bit dramatic. Nevertheless, I determined that while it was dialogue directly from an after-school special, it really was a defining moment for both of us. There was no way I was going to let him choose to be lonely. I was not going to choose to let him stay in – not this time. Other times yes, but not this time. I will not let him give up and I will never give up his happiness.
I think the moment that was truly the defining one was when Max, at 7, heard what I was saying, figured out a way to make it ok for himself, and chose his own path.
If this is what he does with defining moments… I think the future may be very bright.