It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Today’s lesson: Compassion

“Baby Rory has a red car.”

Tyler is circling, a vulture with his prey firmly in his sites. Rory has brought a car from home, a small red car. It might be Lightning McQueen, but I can’t be sure. It hasn’t slipped from the grasp of those pudgy fingers once this morning, not even during his short morning snooze. Tyler peers at what he can see of the car. He wants some Sharing around here, he wants it now, and he wants it to start with that small red car. In typical Tyler fashion, his first approach is oblique.

“Baby Rory has a red car.”

“Yes, he does.” I am playing dumb. If he wants something, he knows how to ask politely and directly. I’m not taking the bait, because I want him to do the social lifting here.

“He is not playing with his car.”

“No, he is just holding it.”

“He is not playing with his car.” This isn’t said in a tone of accusation; Tyler is not whining at all, he is merely informing me.

“You’re right. He is just holding it. I think it makes him feel safe.”

“He is not playing with it.”

You know, we could go on playing cat-and-mouse for quite a while. I’m not sure how long it would take for Tyler to realize he needs to be direct, but this morning it would only be cruel, because this morning…

“You know what, Tyler?”

“What?”

“Baby Rory is very tired today.”

In fact, Baby Rory is just back from ten days in Italy. My clientele tends to be what they term “comfortable”. A significant percentage of my junior clientele are better-travelled than me before they are three. I try not to be bitter about this, and generally succeed. I don’t succeed so well at stifling the occasional wistful sigh… What Baby Rory is, the lucky little monkey, is jet-lagged. But for Tyler, I keep it simple:

“Baby Rory just woke up, he’s very tired. It’s too soon for him to share yet.”

“He can share later?” Tylers round blue eyes widen with hope.

“Well, sweetie, in a little while Baby Rory’s daddy is coming to take him to the doctor, and Rory will want to take his car with him, I’m sure. When he is at the doctor, he will be getting a needle.”

“A needle?”

“Yes. And so when he comes back again, he might be sore and grumpy. So you know what that means?”

“He will have a bo-bo on his arm.” Tyler squeezes a forearm with the opposing hand. He’s been there, he knows from needles and bo-bos.

“Yes. He might also be tired again, and maybe even feel a little sick. I think that we won’t ask him to share his car today.” I lean in toward Tyler’s face, which is sliding into disappointed protest. He’s teetering on the brink of an outraged protest, so I have to be quick, and I have to be smoooooth. But I am not just after avoiding a petulant outburst. I want Tyler to understand, I want to encourage him to think beyond his own wants, and to think of Rory’s needs and feelings. Impossible? Not at all. Tyler turned three this week. He’s capable of empathy. It’s just not his… er… default response…

I nod confidentially, and lower my voice, speak a little slower as I share a Big People insight, inviting Tyler to be a Big People with me. “We won’t ask him to share, because he is only little, and he isn’t feeling well, and you know what? I think that, just for today, sharing will be too hard for Baby Rory.”

“He will not share his red car?”

“Not today, lovie. I think it will just be too hard for him.”

“Because he is little? And he is getting a needle?”

“Yes. That is what I think.”

Tyler meets my eyes and nods along with me, two Big People compassionately considering the foibles of the Small. His face relaxes from incipient protest to knowing smile.

“I think so, too. He is too little to share today.” Ladies and gentlemen, we have empathy.

I give Tyler my warmest smile. “You are a very kind Big Boy, Tyler. You are being kind to Baby Rory.”

“And tomorrow he will be all better, and I can play with the red car!”

Empathy, compassion… and deferred gratification. The boy will go far.

October 13, 2010 Posted by | individuality, Rory, Tyler | , , , , | 7 Comments