When I dropped Brandon off at preschool, he clung to my leg, tears in his eyes like it was his first day again. He loves preschool and always says, "bye mom!" with something like enthusiasm. But today was different.
"Sit here, next to Ryan," I said. But then a redheaded boy sat next to Brandon's friend Ryan instead. "Sit by him," I said, as if one person was as good as another.
"But he's mean to me!" Brandon wailed.
I wanted to demand to know what this redhead did to my sensitive boy. I wanted to track down the mother and have a word or two. But I acted calm and Brandon's teacher helped wrench Brandon off of me.
"I'll be back soon," I promised. Then I came home with Holden, to stew over what could have happened to my boy. Because when something happens to your child, you feel it just as intensely, maybe more so.
Once preschool ended, I picked up Brandon and got the story. On Friday, the redhead and Brandon were in the bathroom and the redhead punched Brandon in the belly and didn't say he was sorry. Brandon said this boy isn't mean to anyone else, only to Brandon.
And I felt a pang like pain in knowing that Brandon has learned that the world is not always kind. That he will have to fight, even though he doesn't want to. That right and wrong are always at war. That people punch each other and say awful things and purposefully hurt one another.
But I brought him home, where he is sheltered from all of that and we made Christmas cookies and despite what he went through this morning, he said, "this is the best day of the year!"
Although I can't keep them from the evil, I can remind them of the good.