I stomped, I shushed. I hissed about sleeping babies, and how he was too big, too old, for this nonsense. For heaven’s sake, it’s a small garden, they’ll be back in a moment, gracious, child, where is your self-control? Listen to me, listen to me, obey, obey, stop it, stop it stop it. This is ridiculous.
Amazingly, this did nothing to calm the situation.
I bathed him, grim-faced, a sergeant major of mothering, dried him with his own striped towel, and still he wept his frustration, his exhaustion, his loneliness, his left-out-ness.
And I remembered something—something about my own self in the moments of my grief and exhaustion and weariness for real-grown-up-life stuff, and wondered: maybe small boys need this gift, too? This seems small to me, but to him, it’s the whole world right now, and so perhaps, I could practice a bit of grace for the tiny man. I picked him up, shrieking and despondent, settled in the rocking chair, and I held him close, the way he loves to be held, and I said, 'You are so sad. You are so angry. You really wanted to go with Dad and Annie. Oh, Joe, you’re so sad.'
And he stopped crying, slowly calmed, wary, listening to me. 'I’m so sorry, I’m sorry you’re so sad, Joe-Bear.' He blinked through his tears, those exhausted childish hiccups surfaced that signify the end of the storm, raggedy breaths, he realised I was really listening, to him, right now.
I believed him and that was enough."