As he stepped off his yellow bus today, my six-year-old boy, Kung Fu Panda, bounced over to the patch of manicured woodchips. Earlier that morning, he and his classmate, a girl with twinkling blue eyes and long, chestnut hair, had overjoyed at two tulips, survivors of the late winter snow. I had explained to them that their leaves, which looked burnt, had been victims of frostbite. Yet, standing rugged amongst the other sad green leaves, these flowers had survived. KFP and his friend named the yellow one Sunny and the white one Snow.
Now the flowers were gone, victims of the classmate's little sister, who had made her fatal moves before I arrived. Her parents, both young, stood obliviously cheerful amongst the torn white petals, formerly known as Snow. The father spun Sunny between his fingers.
KFP looked at the stumps, stunned. When I explained what had happened, he told me, his voice quavering, "It's not right that flowers with names get picked."
I pushed him to walk up to the little girl and her mother, and to tell her how much it upset him when she picked the only flowers. Maybe next time she'll think about it.
If I'm honest, I also needed them to see the pain I saw in his warm, golden-brown eyes at that moment: that pure heartbreak, born of caring for something he could not protect. As a mother, I live that feeling. Each time he suffers, I suffer not only his pain but that feeling of helplessness at my inability to keep him from hurting.
I felt that pain last year, in a different school district, when his buddy called him a baby, and he cried all the way home.
I felt it when we went to a Christmas banquet because Santa was supposed to be there, and Santa never showed.
I felt it the first time I left him with a babysitter, and he stood at the door, reaching for me.
As he gets older, what hurts him changes, but what hurts me does not. When he hurts, I hurt, my heart now fissured with tiny compassionate wounds, healing at different paces. Light seeps out the cracks, the love that fills my heart for him bleeding out.
No, sweetie, flowers with names should not be picked. But three-year-old girls don't always realize that, I tell him. For it is my job to help him heal, and in doing so, to heal myself.