The first challenge is to write about a first in your life; house, car, accident, child.... The options are limitless. I thought and thought and thought about it! At the end of the day, none of my firsts seemed as significant as watching Ryan progress through hers. I saw a scrapbook layout one day where a mom highlighted what her toddlers had learned that week. She called it, "The little milestones of little people" and I was struck by the significance of this. Simply because she will not remember these monumental moments and I don't think Ryan's 'firsts', at least the ones from these early years, will ever be as significant to her as they are to me.
I have already blogged about Ryan's many firsts from her first year, rolling over, sitting up, smiling, eating solids, taking a bottle, words... And, as anyone with a toddler knows, 'firsts' come at an astronomical rate. There is just no end to how limitless curiousity results in the mastery of skills. As a parent I love every one of them. Ryan was just as amazed as we were when she was first able to turn her tricycle around on our veranda...'I do it Mama - I turn it awound!'. Or when after repeated explanations that if she closed her eyes and covered them with a facecloth while I was washing her hair that she wouldn't get water in her eyes and wouldn't have to cry she finally tried it and said, 'Look, I no crying.' I know, that was quite the run on sentence. I love the look on her face - so proud that she can do it and so ready to tackle the next thing.
Unfortunately, along with all the happy firsts there are also the ones that break your heart and this is the story that I'd like to tell.
One evening this summer Ryan and I went for a bike ride. Her on her fancy red Radio flyer tricycle (that I just had to have) and me on my hand me down bike (isn't that always the way). According to Ryan, we went 'far, far away' which in actual measurements amounts to the stop sign about 50m away. Its a heavy trike! Anyway, there are about 5 'big' little girls (8ish to 10ish) that live in my immediate area and on our way back, these girls were playing basketball at a net that one of them has at the end of her driveway.
'Mama, I go put the bike away. I play basketball with the girls!', she said. Ryan has always had an affinity to older kids and to see this many all together - wow wee! So off we went, back home to drop off our bikes.
I warned her, 'Ryan, if you want to go play basketball with the girls you have to put pants on....' This is the time where I have to tell you that we'd been having some pants issues. Namely, little miss doesn't want to wear any (and was not wearing any at that very moment). I could tell that she really wanted to play with the girls though because we got home, put the bikes in the shed and ran in the house to get on some pants.
As we were leaving, Ryan had another special request, 'Mama, I wear the sandals like you!'. Oh boy, now she was really preening. Along with the pants issue, there had also been some shoe issues. Like only wearing crocs everywhere, all the time. There was something big happening right then and there.
So there we were, all fancied up in our pants and our sandals and off we went to see the girls play basketball. I admit, I had some reservations. Our little neighbourhood is not a close one and we don't hang out with the neighbours. However, we'd been around most of the girls enough that they knew Ryan by name and sometimes stopped to have a little chat with her. We are also there biggest customers at their lemonade stand.... Anyway, I knew that they really wouldn't want to play with Ryan but I thought (I hoped anyway) that they might humor her and let her try to throw the ball.... Its nice to have hopes...
When we were about 10 feet away from the all-important girls and the majestic basketball net they all turned and ran into the yard! Ryan was so confused. Here she had donned her finery to hang with her peeps and they bailed on her.
We stood at the end of the driveway watching the girls play in the yard as I tried to figure out the best way to handle this situation. If the yard was any other but this particular one I would have brought Ryan in. As it happened, I don't know the parents of this little girl at all and, while playing with the b-ball net they have perched at the end of the drive way is one thing, I certainly wouldn't go in the yard. And the girls had made it clear they didn't want there fun interrupted by a 3 year old. To top it all off, Ryan was asking me repeated ly to go in. This is exactly the scenario that I did not want embroil myself in.
'Mama, I go over there.' said my little peanut.
'We can't honey, Mama doesn't know these people and we weren't invited.'
'But I want to go over there and play with the girls!'
'Let's play with the basketball. Do you want me to pick you up so you can put the ball in.'
'Okay, lets go home and play.'
Reluctantly Ryan turned towards home, her face as long as I've ever seen it and her thumb tucked securely in place. She was crushed and there was not a doubt in my mind that she felt completely rejected by these girls that just moments ago she held in very high esteem. After a few steps she looked at me and said,
'I can't walk, I want you to carry me.' Of course I picked her up to begin the short walk home.
'Ryan, are your feelings hurt because the girls didn't want to play with you?'
'Yes.' I don't think that she could have gotten any closer if she tried, her legs were wrapped around my waist and her head was tucked into my neck. The thumb was not leaving her mouth.
'Ryan, its OK that your upset but I don't think that those girls were trying to hurt your feelings. I think that sometimes big girls just want to play with big girls. Right now you're still a little girl. I love you, your my favourite girl in the world!'
So we got home and eventually the sadness and hurt went away and Ryan moved one with her day. I know that she won't remember this and that ultimately it will be a very insignificant part of her life. I think it was so profound to me though, because it was the first time I really felt like I couldn't protect her from the outside world. I couldn't make those girls play with her and be nice to her and give her the 2 minutes that would have made her feel like a million dollars. She didn't want me to love her at that moment, she wanted the girls and they didn't want her. The only thing that I could do was try to help her to understand the situation, hopefully I did.
Anyway, this is a first that troubled me for awhile. I though it was worthy of being recorded. Sorry if it was a little long winded.