Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Learning to hit the brakes
Kids were playing. And someone got hurt.
I had been watching my nieces and nephew for the evening. The rain had been on and off so we were in and out of the house, heading out as often as the rain stopped so we could enjoy the cool summer evening.
The kids were running and playing and having a great time. And L was riding her new bike she'd just gotten for her birthday. But L doesn't know how to brake very well. Of course, I didn't know that beforehand. All I knew is that G was walking down the sidewalk. As L headed toward him, there was no attempt to stop and before I could do anything, L had hit G with the bike and still couldn't stop, so it knocked him over and hit him again. Three-year-old G immediately started screaming. And 5-year-old L started crying.
I couldn't help both, so I ran and grabbed the child on the ground to inspect for bleeding and other owies. I picked him up in my arms and held him while asking L why she didn't brake. L's crying got louder and stronger, "I didn't know how to brake!" "Why are you riding the bike if you don't know how to brake?" I scolded. G was still crying loudly in my ear. Again, I inspected to make sure he was ok and held him closer. I then told L to go put her bike in the garage and that we were done riding bikes until she learned how to brake.
I was, well, upset.
Within seconds, G was just fine again and pointed out a bird on the ground and laughed and smiled. No harm done. L was still quite upset and couldn't stop crying.
So I calmed down. We went inside. And we talked.
"L, do you know why I was upset?"
Through her tears, "I don't know how to brake!" and more tears.
"L, I was upset because I was scared. I was scared that G had gotten really hurt. I was scared that you got hurt because you were crying. I was just scared. And I'm sorry that I got upset because I was scared. I just love both of you and didn't want either of you to be hurt."
I was surprised. She understood. The tears stopped and we talked about it. We talked about how if she practices more on her bike, she'll learn how to brake. But maybe in the meantime, she'll have to make sure that no one is in the driveway or on the sidewalk so that she can learn. She apologized to G about her innocent mistake and both parties were happy with each other.
She understood because she understands being scared. She was scared, too. She was scared that she had hurt G when she didn't mean to.
So L and I sat down together while the rain started up again outside. We pulled out books and read with G. And L practiced her reading. She and I read a book together 5 times until she had all the words down. She was so excited and so happy to be spending time with me. And so proud of herself for reading a book on her own. She isn't even in kindergarten yet, so I was very impressed and gave her a great deal of praise. And it seemed like it had all been forgotten.
But as soon as her parents got home, she told them first thing that she'd run G over, maybe expecting a reprimand or thinking that I would tell them and she wanted her story told first. But of course we explained that it was a mistake and that we had resolved it and we were going to practice more. And L seemed content and maybe even surprised with the outcome.
A 5-year-old understands fear. And she understands when someone gets hurt. She knows what it's like to be scared. Her compassionate heart knew that I was scared, not mad. And by being honest with the root cause of my reaction, she could understand it. And she could forgive, because she had felt scared too.
I have fears about many things and I get scared. Sometimes I try to mask it behind yelling or behind anger or behind being upset or even behind silence. Those feelings hurt--they hurt others and they hurt me. But truthfully explaining my fear...that is something we can all relate to. And something that opens up conversation.
Sometimes I just need to learn how to hit the brakes, too.