We had a Sukkot celebration at a friend's house on Sunday; there were four 7-to-8-year-olds, three 11-to-12-year-olds, and a 16-year-old. The hostess, D, recently got her Master's in Jewish Education, and clearly couldn't allow a learning opportunity to pass her by, So she gathered the kids together to help them each make an individual, miniature sukkah out of graham crackers, marshmallow fluff, pretzels and candy corn.
When all the sukkot were completed, the kids invited the parents in to see, and the 16-year-old announced that she had given each kid an award for their sukkah--some sweet, some funny, some silly. As she announced each award, we applauded. Somewhere in the middle, she announced N's award ("best postmodern design"). But, when the applause started, N crumpled to the table, put his arms over his head, and began to wail, "No! No!" and sob. Loudly.
Luckily, most of those in attendance are good friends--by which I mean, people who "get it"--and all Baroy and I had to do was nod to the 16-year-old to continue and keep saying to the rest of the folks, "The clapping and the attention. It's just too much for him sometimes," and everything went on.
Still, you know, it's not what you want to see. It's not a step forward. At all.
But what happened next? Sorta was.
After everyone had finished admiring the sukkot, they went back outside for pizza and beer. I went over to the table where N was still quietly sobbing into his arms.
"Hey, sweetie?" I whispered to him, bending down to get closer to him. "Do you want to come sit on my lap for a little while until you feel better?"
He finally raised his head. "No, I don't think so," he said. "I don't want anyone to think I'm like a baby."
See, that part? Right there? That's the huge part. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that, despite the fact that he's coming up hard and fast on 9 years of age, he's never said anything like that before, never seemed to consider how others would perceive his behavior, and certainly never in a way that implied he recognizes the ways in which his behavior lags behind that of others in age-appropriateness or maturity.
Thus, while his response made me sad (a cuddle is a great regulator for N; there's nothing like it for getting him back on a more even emotional keel), it made me proud, too, and even a little hopeful.
And so, despite the mini-meltdown, I'm calling it a win. By a smidge.