It’s a Cruel, Cruel World

Almost every night for the last six years I have lain down with Fred as he drifts off to sleep. Some may question the prudence of this, but, seeing how my days of cuddling my little boy are numbered, I don’t mind snuggling with him for 15 minutes each night. And lately, as a newly minted six year-old, he’s had alot on his mind, and it’s during these 15 minutes in the dark that he shares his deepest thoughts and burning questions with me. Take this conversation from last night:

“Mommy, there are some people who ask you to do something and they say they will give you something if you do it and then you do what they ask you to do but you don’t get what they said they are gonna give you even if you do what they tell you to do.”

“Uh – can you say that again-”

“Yeah, yeah, it happened to me,” he nodded without having heard me. “once.”

“Oh, good,” I said, relieved that he can use a real life example and help me to decipher what I understood to be an important revelation to him about the human condition. “Tell me what happened to you.”

“Okay. Pretend this is me, okay?” and he holds up one finger on his left hand. “And pretend this is the other person, okay?” He holds up a finger on his right hand.

“I am playing on the swing. Then this person comes over and says, ‘Hey, I wanna play on the swing.’ And I say, ‘NO.’ and he says, ‘Well, if you let me play on the swing I’ll give ya some, uh, I don’t know, let’s pretend – some, some candy.'”

“And what did you do?”

“I gave him my swing, of course. Then later when I went back to the cafeteria I waited and waited. And then – oh, it doesn’t matter anyway because it’s not good.”

“You mean he never gave you the candy?”


“And it’s not good because the candy is not good for you?”


“And that’s why it doesn’t matter?”


“He lied, didn’t he?”


“Did that make you mad?”

Fred lets out a long, drawn-out sigh.

Aaaanyway, it doesn’t matter. But next time someone wants something and asks me to do something and says he’s gonna give me something to do the thing he wants me to do, I’m not gonna do it.”

And so at the ripe old age of six Fred got suckered for the first and, according to him, the last time. Last week he learned that just because your friend Ronny invites you to his house for his birthday and gives you the name of the 7 mile-long main street where he lives, it doesn’t mean you are actually invited because Ronny’s mommy never gave an official invitation to this mommy. In time he will also realize that one of his best girl friends Kara is beginning to distance herself more and more, simply because her other girlfriends are telling her that boys are stupid and she shouldn’t play with them, a worry that has been troubling Kara’s mother. It breaks my heart that part of growing up also means being forced to let go of that kind world his Mommy and Daddy told him about. “Be nice,” “Be respectful,” we tell him. Fred tries to be these things, but is realizing too soon that not everyone goes by the same rules.

Now Fred is beginning to learn about the way life works outside of his home, in that big space where Mommy and Daddy don’t have a whole lot of power to make everything just right. I do hope that in all these discoveries of real life and people and the way they work, though, Fred will also remember the time Helena wrote and hand-delivered to our house a get well note when he fell off his bike, and the time Jack shared half his cookie with him even though he was hungry enough to eat the whole thing himself. Yes, my baby is growing up. And as long as he’ll let me, I’ll snuggle with him and let him know there’s a safe and happy place to go home to, no matter how cruel life gets.

18 thoughts on “It’s a Cruel, Cruel World

  1. I love that he shares that with you. I can’t WAIT until E is old enough to do that.
    Isn’t it hard to watch the real world creep in? My son has a best friend who is a girl and I think her parents would rather them not be close. And it makes me so sad.
    But I like that you remember the positives of real life creeping in as well — I forget those sometimes.

    • Let me tell you, I did have to think long and hard for those 2 sweet examples – not because there aren’t any but because I guess I also sometimes forget the good stuff too. I feel so sad about your son’s girl friend’s parents not wanting them to be close. It’s bad enough when the child doesn’t want it, but the parents?! I read an essay once by a woman who was trying to console her son because he couldn’t understand why girls rejected him and why they hated boys. Anyway, I definitely feel a shift in F. developmentally now that he is 6. To be honest, though, this story made me sad…I realized I can’t protect him forever. It’s been just one eye opening incident after another because in his little world everyone is supposed to be nice.

  2. I think it is wonderful that you get that 15 minutes of snuggle time at the end of the day and that your son talks so openly with you about anything and everything. I so look forward to my daughter being old enough to talk with me like that. It is fascinating viewing the world through the eyes of a child – but also sad in many ways, knowing the hard facts they have to learn and the hard knocks they have to deal with as part of growing up. Love post.

    • Thanks! I really love this age so much, and you have so much to look forward to (and enjoy right now too). You are right on about the sadness – I was so impressed last night by my son’s ability and willingness to share his discovery with me but it made me incredibly sad. It was as if he was telling me, “But mommy, this isn’t what you said it was going to be like…” He was shocked and resigned about the whole thing at the same time.

  3. I spend time with each of my boys before they go to sleep. We talk, I check in, sometimes they just are quiet while we read together in their room. It’s the presence that lets them fall asleep peacefully. I lay with Baby E every night, and we usually just tickle and laugh.

    As for the world, yeah. It’s hard, esp. when you feel as if you’re the only teaching “the golden rule.” There are some out there that don’t play by this rule. And, yeah, your kids do find them.

    It hurts. I always tell them, “we were made to make the world a better place. That’s our job. Everyday. That’s what we do in this house.”

    It still sucks.

    It’s like a poem I love so much:
    “Doctor,” asked the woman, “are you sure you cut the cord? Because, please then, tell me why it’s me that hurts when he cries?”

  4. Oh, the poem is beautiful!

    And now that I am the mom of a boy, I can see just at what point they start to learn and start to lose their innocence. They all start out so sweet…

  5. So incredible that you cuddle with your son every night and really hear what he is saying. You must be a wonderful mama.

    It is hard to witness the real world creeping in, but at least, because you are paying attention, you can still soothe and guide your son.

    • Thank you! I’d really like to keep up the kind of relationship in which my son can feel he can tell me anything, but I know that’s going to be a huge challenge. He’s only 6, so who knows how much longer he will talk to me about such things. You’re right that the key is to simply pay attention 🙂

  6. Being a mom makes me understand why my mom always cried with us when our hearts got broken. And why she was slower to forgive those who hurt her girls.

    Keep cuddling your little boy. Those fifteen minutes a night will give your a trove of information and will give him the knowledge that you’re there for him.

  7. I love how pure he his the way he brings you up to speed with his index finger visuals! It’s amazing how that stuck with him. Certainly playground mishaps happen every recess, but that one was a turning point of sorts. He’s been used to Mommy and Daddy following through with promises, and this third party stiffed him.

    I remember my Mom having a moment when I was in a riff with girls at school, and she said it really hurt her since it was the first time she felt she couldn’t fix it – a phone call to “that girl’s mother” would no longer be appropriate at that age, and a shopping splurge wouldn’t have been more than a baidaid…

    I love that night-time chat period. You get the positives in those 15 minutes too – the other night Ashley was excited to see the progress on the house that’s being built that we pass on the way to Kindergarten in the mornings. I had no idea she was accessing the job, but those little minds are ticking and excited, sad, happy and concerned 24 hours!

    *(I confess we can thank being “forced” into the co-sleeping culture in Japan for these moments too. )

    • Thanks Kathryn! It’s really true – those “little” minds are continously ticking, assessing, processing, trying to understand, etc. In many ways, they really work much harder than our brains do. How often have kids noticed things that we had long, long, long ago just zoned out on or stopped caring about? F. will be so insisent on understanding why x, y, z and my immediate reaction is, oh, it’s not important…a short cut/cop out way of saying “Hm, I don’t know and I had long ago stopped wondering why.”

  8. It is truly wonderful that you get to really hear what’s on his mind during those few minutes before he goes to sleep…those are precious moments! Sorry to hear that he got “suckered”…it’s a tough world we live in, but he is so blessed to have you as his mommy, to remind him of all the positive and happy things in life. 🙂

    • So nice to hear from you, Christine! I was just thinking of you with the post I just put up, about memories, etc. Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂

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