Recently I took my daughter Mai and her three-year-old son to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. I poured tea for her and I. My grandson– his nickname is Nooni– wanted to drink tea, too.
“I want shay!” he demanded. He mixes his languages, sometimes.
Mom told him, “It’s too hot, Habibi.”
“I want shay!” he cried, louder. Mai continued to dissuade him but he wouldn’t believe her that the tea was hot. In fact, the tea was not particularly hot, and Nooni insisted on his own cup of “shay.” Finally, she poured him a tiny amount in his own cup, and swished it around a bit. I didn’t object.
We had underestimated the tenderness of tiny mouths. He screamed, threw the tea cup down, then started slapping his mother’s arm. I scolded him for slapping his mom, but Mom did not react. She perceived that he was expressing his shock and pain not only at the hot tea, but more importantly, at her for not protecting him.
His slaps said, “Mom! Why did you cave in to me? Don’t you know I’m just a three-year-old, and still inexperienced about the world? You have to protect me!”
I felt quite badly then for not objecting to the tea, and I remembered occasions on which I had caved in to him and gave him whatever he wanted, because when he cries, my heart also cries. I love to see my grandson happy.
The incident with the tea taught me a lesson about how to make him happy, a lesson I’ll have to keep foremost in my mind. This is a kid who always wants to do whatever the adults do, from drinking tea to driving the car to diving into the deep end of the pool!