It was a gorgeous, clear Southern California morning. An easter egg hunt had just commenced. Life was good.
My son wasn’t looking for the eggs. He was fascinated by the cat door to our friend’s house or maybe he was fascinated by the cat. From where I was standing, I couldn’t quite tell what had struck his fancy. Whatever the case, he wasn’t looking for eggs like the other kids. And our dear friend, who’d been so lovely to set the whole thing up, didn’t want him to miss out on the fun. So he said,
“Hudson! There are no eggs there…come and look over here.”
Hudson stayed where he was. And continued to do whatever it was that he was doing.
Intervening gently I said, “Are you interested in the little door, Hudson? Do you see the cat?”
I was trying to show our friend that he had found something of interest to him, it may not be on the agenda, but he was enjoying himself. Everything was okay. I was on it.
Our friend didn’t quite get what I was indirectly trying to say and told Hudson once again that there were no eggs by him and that the hunt was over yonder. He even went over to him to steer him in the right direction.
I steeled myself.
Hudson slowly turned around and crumpled. Tears streamed down his face.
He said he wanted to go home. Over and over again. I took this to mean that he wasn’t feeling welcome here as he was, that being someone who was looking at a cat door and not for eggs.
I carried him over to a quiet area and acknowledged what he was saying.
“You want to go home Hudson. You were looking at something and weren’t ready to look for eggs, is that right?”
Our friend finally understood what happened and apologized to Hudson. Which was so lovely of him to do. Usually people just explain to me how they didn’t do anything wrong. Not that it’s about right and wrong…
Anyway, Hudson continued to cry for a while. I held him and I went over what happened a couple of more times. ”You want to go home….You loved looking at the door. You weren’t ready for the hunt…” etc.
Then the crying stopped. He felt understood and the feelings were out of his body. He saw an egg and off he went. He showed it to our friend. No hard feelings!
There is no need to replace their agenda with ours.
I totally understand that our friend didn’t want him to miss out on the experience. On the fun! That he didn’t want all of the eggs to be gone. He meant so well. And what he had told Hudson was seemingly so helpful. And yet, it wasn’t. It was really a form of controlling him and invalidating his experience. His interests.
Hudson may have wondered why he was being told to do something other than what he was doing.
Why, he may have wondered, was looking for an egg better than looking at a cat?
I have to say I was proud that he’s someone who knows what his interests are, that he isn’t swayed by others and doesn’t feel pressure to conform.
If you don’t accept me for who I am, I want to go home! Of course he wanted to be there, but he wanted to be accepted for who he was.
Hudson is, as Alfie Kohn might say, “intrinsically” motivated.
The eggs could wait, he’d found something that was fascinating and he was pursuing it!
And if he had missed the egg hunt, we could have hidden some more eggs.
We had the resources and the time.
We all mean so well.And yet we control kids all the time. In the most benign ways. And most kids, I fear, have become immune to it. They’re used to being told what to do and when to do it.
I hope Hudson can hold onto himself…as painful as it may be sometimes.
It’ll be worth it.