Yesterday, I brought Emma to the mall. I was going to have lunch with my girlfriend too, and so while waiting, Emma and I went to the toy store. It is her favourite place to go, and she can recognize it from far. She will let out a big “Ohhhhh!” and point at the store. There is a LEGO play area for the children. Whenever I bring her here, I would always let her hang out and play there for a little while. Sometimes there are other children there too, most of the time older children. It gives her an opportunity to mingle, but she is usually really shy and just clings to my leg.
Yesterday was different though. She was the only one playing there at first. Along came a girl of about 5-6 years old. The girl was about to approach the LEGO table until she met eyes with Emma. Then, the girl stopped in her tracks. I saw some hesitation in her behaviour, but I wasn’t sure if it was because she was shy and afraid to go near Emma. So I didn’t think too much about it and continued guiding Emma with her LEGO play, until Emma babbled something and pointed in that direction. At first, I thought she wanted to go across and look at the dinosaur and animal figurines. But Emma did not nod her head, and so I observed her again. She was still looking in that direction, and I was puzzled what she wanted to do. Then, I realized that little girl was still standing there (perhaps, still in hesitation) a few feet away from us. So, I asked Emma if she wanted the little girl to play with her. Emma nodded her head. I encouraged Emma to go over and ask her to play, and to my surprise she started walking towards her; without needing my help … without dragging me along with her.
I was proud of Emma for making the independent move.
But then something happened. Something so natural, yet pitiful happened. I almost forgot how I once socialized with others when I was a kid until I saw what happened next.
The girl ran away as soon as Emma got near to her. And my daughter just stood there, her gaze followed the girl who ran away from her. She stood there for a little while, and then walked back to me as if nothing had happened, and continued playing the LEGO by herself.
My heart broke. As much as I knew, there was nothing I could have done, I felt sad for my baby. Although, I wonder what went through her mind? How did she feel? Was she disappointed? Was she upset?
All I managed to muster up was a gentle pat on Emma’s back and said, “That’s okay, dear. You tried and that’s all that matters.”
I wonder if Emma understood me.
I wonder if I should have reacted differently.
I do know at some point I’m going to have to let go and let her experience everything there is about life. Especially the sad experiences. Rejection. Humiliation. Disappointment.
I know I’ve said it a million times, but here it is again. Motherhood is one tough, tough role.