One day when my kids were in grade school, I got a phone call from a friend. She asked me if I could watch her kids. She had to go up to the hospital. I said sure. Her kids and mine were all about the same age and got along great.
When they came over, I took them all out for the day and bought all of them a helium balloon. On the way home I stopped at my Mom’s. The kids were soon riding bikes and big wheels around the circular drive, so I went inside to talk to my Mom.
A little while later my son came bursting into the door. “Mom! Mom! Ryan’s crying. I think he’s hurt!”
I dashed out the door with my heart beating fast, hoping it wasn’t anything serious. When I got out there I saw Ryan on his bike going around in wobbly circles. Tears were streaming down his cheeks, his mouth was wide open and he was sobbing. His eyes were little slits.
I was confused. He didn’t look hurt. “Ryan, what’s wrong?” I asked.
Between sobs, he said, “My…. balloon …. flew…. awaaaaaaay.” He was still sobbing. I didn’t get it. He had me this worried over a balloon?
“Ryan,” I said, “Calm down. It’s just a balloon.”
“But…. I…. haven’t…. had…. a….. balloon …. in….. such….a …… looooong…. time.”
Oh. That’s when I understood. It wasn’t about the balloon. His parents split up a while back and were going through a divorce. They had to move from their home to a trailer park. And most of the time, when it was their Dad’s weekend to visit, he never showed up. The night before was one of those nights. Instead of picking up the kids, he decided to go out with his friends and get drunk. He got in a horrible car accident that almost killed him.
His Mom told me not to tell them about their Dad yet. She wanted to tell them herself when she came to pick them up. All they knew was that their Dad never showed up the night before.
All the kids had stopped riding around and were watching what was going on. My son walked over to him and said “Here, you can have my balloon.” Ryan took the balloon and his sobs started to lessen.
When kids under four years old start sobbing like that for no apparent reason, sometimes it’s just frustration because it’s hard for them to put into words what they want to say.
However, if a grade school age kid starts sobbing uncontrollably because they spilled their orange juice or some other simple thing, there’s usually something more going on. We need to talk to them and figure out what’s bothering them.
Yes Forrest, sometimes there aren’t enough rocks.
And sometimes…. It’s not about the balloons.