The crowd of kids in front of the concert stage were singing, jumping, and dancing, frenzied and joyful. At the edge of the crowd, next to the chairs for the parents, stood my four-year-old son. He watched and occasionally bounced his head a little, like a kid at homecoming who feels uncomfortable dancing. Other times he wandered to me in the back, seemingly missing the music altogether.
“Who is this kid?” I wondered.
At home, he’s constantly yell-singing songs he makes up on the spot. Most of them sound like hybrids of Raffi and Ozzy Osborne. He goes to sleep to the best of Mozart. His electronic drum set is his second favorite toy. My son loves music to the deepest core of his being. Was he not enjoying the concert? What was wrong?
Then I remembered a video of another little boy. A nine-year-old with red-brown hair and freckles, approaching a 1990s-era video camera. Coming home from his first day of school, he recounted a joke from a Garfield comic and laughed hysterically. Watching the family video with my in-laws one Christmas, I wondered what had happened to make my husband transform from this joke-cracking kid to someone who’s so quiet in social settings.
Then I started connecting the dots. I remembered my son being so quiet in baby music classes, but singing all of the words at home. I recalled his first concert, where he sat quietly on my lap, staring at the band on stage.
With both him and my husband, I realized there was nothing wrong. Nothing had changed in them over time, only the situation surrounding them. My son didn’t start disliking music; my husband didn’t suddenly become quiet.
That disjoint between public and private is just who they are. They’re both naturally quiet in new situations with unfamiliar people. It’s only when they know you well that they open up. I’m so used to seeing them comfortable around me that I had forgotten how they are in other situations. Showing those sides doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong; it’s just a different part of who they are.
At the end of the night, I asked my son what he thought of the concert. After a moment’s thought, he said, “It was great.”
To me, the concert reinforced how important it is to come beside your children as they are. If I had forced him up front, he would have been miserable. As it was, he had a terrific time.
As parents, we’re called to meet our children where they are, not where we want them to be. We’re called to see all sides of them, not just the sides we like the most or are most similar to us. Most of all, we’re called to love them in every situation, exactly for who they are.
Understanding, accepting and love my kid for himself is an ongoing lesson for me. Check out the post Climbing Up to New Perspectives in Parenting for more thoughts on this and be sure to follow our Facebook page!