The other day, Josh (5) was carrying his notebook around and wanted Allie to help him write something. As he approached her, flipping through the book, this note was exposed. Allie asked him what it said and he said, "I don't remember." When pressed, he still insisted he didn't remember what he wrote, though he was obviously distressed. She said, "Who did you write this to?" "Evan." (His 10 year old brother.) She told him it was very ugly, that we didn't say that to people, and he should be ashamed. He obviously was.
I am both saddened and encouraged by this event for many reasons. I'm sad that he would ever want to write that way about anyone, especially his own brother. I'm sad that small children are so cruel to each other, before they learn to hide their emotions, because they learn the cruelty from those around them. He doesn't really know what it means to hate someone, yet he knows it means something bad towards his brother, and that is what he wants to express. I'm not even sure I know what it is to truly hate someone. I am also sad that he is using the skills he is learning in school and at home to express hostility.
Yet, I'm also relieved that he is expressing it in such a passive form as writing it on a paper that he keeps hidden, like my journal here. I am encouraged by the fact that he was immediately ashamed; that he knew he was wrong and unjustified for expressing hatred for his brother. He wasn't defiant, or didn't feel justified for those feelings. I am encouraged the most by the fact that this is the first time we have seen a negative expression of emotion in his writing, and that he has written many more "I luv you" notes than this one hate message.
I love the mispellings in his words, which tell me he is stepping beyond his own knowledge of a few small words, which he can spell correctly, and seeking a larger vocabulary with which to write his feelings. It encourages me to see him hunger for knowledge, to see him recognize it as a tool with which he can make himself known to the world in new ways. Wow, I think, and he's only five years old.
I am overwhelmed and challenged by my responsibility, to both my sons, to guide them into the world in both a safe and adventurous way; so they walk and speak with confidence, but are wary of risks with consequences that are too great. The path through the world that gets you to my age "safely" can be varied and winding, yet narrow and dangerous, too. It is scary to set your children on that path having to use and trust their own judgment, rather than being able to decide everything for them.
Most of all, I am reminded of the enormity of the gift I have been given to have this opportunity with these two boys. Having progressed halfway - or even more - through my journey, I stand only at the beginning of theirs. And I hopefully get to watch them for a long time. It's like my toes are hanging off the edge of the Grand Canyon. It's breathtaking and monumental... and so much bigger than me. What a view!