He did it. He met a big goal, something that stretched him past comfort, and his reward was getting to watch Star Wars. The real, grown-up one, laser guns and light sabers in all their glory.
As he walked out to the car from school, I rolled down the windows and blasted the opening theme loud enough to wake the dead. He cracked a smile, but it didn't reach his eyes.
"I hurt my elbow at school today." He held up his arm, brandishing a bandaid.
"I'm sorry, bud. What happened?"
He recounted the events- nothing more than rough n' tumble boy play, then he paused.
"They laughed at me. All the other boys, and my best friend. They laughed when I fell."
Hot, silent tears rolled down his face, and my mama heart shattered into a thousand pieces.
I've known this day was coming. We've made it six years, which is a gracious plenty in light of the world we live in. Today wasn't just about embarrassment and a scraped arm. It marks the end of an era, an era in which he's walked through the world genuinely believing that everyone in the world is kind. That all those around him are with him and for him.
I could have turned around and marched in, demanding an explanation from the teacher. I could have texted the other mama and demanded an apology. Goodness knows I've seen those scenes play out over my years as a teacher and a mama.
But I didn't.
I pulled him into my arms and wiped the bitter tears away. We talked about compassion and forgiveness. About using words to build others up. I told him that what he felt was called betrayal. He perked his head up. "Like Jesus? Jesus was betrayed, too."
This afternoon, he's been careful. He's been quick to apologize to his sisters in moments of unkindness. He's been kind in his responses to hard requests. I know this is not a permanent change, but it's been evidence of a slight shift in his heart towards empathy.
We live in a culture that refuses consequences, that pushes against anything unpleasant, and refuses to sit through pain or endure suffering. We are quick to exact our pound of flesh, not minding the drops of blood it takes to get it. We fight our children's battles and all they ever learn is that they are victims entitled to restitution. Yet vengeance and a demand for justice will never breed compassion or love.
As hard as it was to watch him hurt and hear him wrestle with his feelings, I could not be more proud of how he took that pain and used it towards mercy. And, for love, that he knew he had a High Priest that sympathized in his sufferings.
There are times when our children will need us to stand up and step in. There are times they will need our protection and advocacy. But there are also times to let them experience the brokenness of this world and run to the arms of their Savior who promises he will make all broken things new again.
So while today might have been the closing of an era, it's the dawn of a new one in which I pray the gospel will be richer and deeper in his life.
Holding back sometimes means holding out hope.