Thursday, October 27, 2011

On Jelly Beans and Other Things...

Monday, after school, having a grape-eating contest - who can make the loudest crunch:

I tossed out a casual, "So Matthew, how was your day?"

Mid-crunch, my boy stopped and then looked away.

"I was the only one who used my accent," he offered, a little flush of pride lighting his face before his gaze dropped back down.

"Awesome! Do you mean your accent when you're speaking French?"


" don't seem happy about that, Bug. It's a good thing, right?"

"Well, yeah. I was the only one who was listening but Madame M. didn't give me a jelly bean."

"Do you get a jelly bean for using your accent, then?" I watched as his expression soured further, all thought of grape-crunching forgotten. In a low voice, he answered:

"No, we get jelly beans for listening, but Madame M. didn't give me one."

"Ah. I see. Do you think maybe she just forgot?"

A vehement head shake, tears glistening. "No. She never forgets. She just didn't want to give me one."

Mama Bear rose up inside me, roaring even as I struggled to tamp her down. Calm down, Mama.

I took a deep breath, reached out to take his hand. "That must have hurt your feelings, eh?"

Matthew nodded.

"Maybe she doesn't like me." Though he offered it as an observation, I could hear the question in his voice, wrapped as it was in resignation and defeat.

It broke my heart.

"I'm sure you're wrong, sweetheart. I can't imagine that she doesn't like you. I'm sure she just forgot."

Shrugs from Matthew. Helpless gazing from me.

And then...a memory.

"Let me tell you a story, Matthew. When I was in Kindergarten, I had a teacher called Mrs. Major. Every morning, she filled a plastic egg with jelly bean treats and hid it somewhere in the classroom. Each student was given a chance to search for the egg and eat those jelly bean treats throughout the day."


"It was. But I never got chosen. One day, I asked Mrs. Major when it would be my turn. But she thought I'd had a turn and put me in time-out for telling a fib."

"Really?!?" Matthew's eyes were wide with surprise and indignation. This sort of thing sets his Libra heart aflame. Thirty-five years later, seeing indignation flare in my son's eyes soothed the ache of that memory, long-buried but clearly, not forgotten.

I nodded.

"Really. I was very sad. I wasn't fibbing, she'd just forgotten. But it hurt my feelings."

We sat quietly, letting those hurt feelings - his and mine - settle around us. And then Matthew brightened.

"Mummy! I have an idea! We can get a plastic egg and fill it with jelly beans. Luke and I can take turns hiding it and then you can have your turn finding it! Would that be OK?"

Oh, my son. My sensitive, tender-hearted son. What did I ever do to deserve you?

Out loud I said, " What a wonderful idea, Matthew!  Thank you. We'll get some jelly beans at the weekend and whenever you use your accent with me, you'll get a jelly bean, too, OK?"

"Sounds like a plan, Mummy." His own hurt feelings forgotten, Matthew leaped from the couch and began scouting for good hiding spots. I stayed seated a minute longer, trying to compose myself.

For want of a jelly bean, grace was found.

*And you? Who was your Mrs. M? Where have you found grace?*


  1. You've definitely stirred some memories for me with this one. What a great solution to one of life's tough growing-up moments. You're a lucky momma with a great little boy :)

  2. I am lucky, indeed. He's a great kid - every day, he shows me who I want to be.

    Do you have a "Mrs. M" in your memory, Sara? Great to see you here, by the way!


  3. No, my beloved and much-missed friend. I have awesome kids. I just have to show up and revel in their goodness!


  4. This is beautiful. And profound. And why yours is one of my most favourite(ist) blogs ever!

  5. Ok... so I have to keep reminding myself not to read your stuff at work! I just broke down crying at my desk... AGAIN! People are going to start wondering about me! Love you, love your kids, and love reading your blog. Hugs and kisses to you and your brood! xoxo

  6. So sweet. What a wonderful little guy you have. :) This post was fantastic, Liz. Fantastic.

  7. You are an awesome mom and it sounds like you have one awesome little boy there. (Well, two awesome little boys in total!) I love reading your posts - thank you!

  8. Thanks, Annie - am pretty much awed by Matthew on a regular basis. His innate goodness surely makes up for his naughty moments!

    Gillian, so great to see you - so happy that you're reading my stuff. How's school going?!?

  9. Oh Liz.

    As usual, this is so lovely. Each year I ask my students to take a tiny moment and write about its significance. They never get it...but now I can show them this.

    It's delicious. Like your children. Like the way you parent.

  10. Am honoured and touched that you would use this in your teaching, Renee. Please come back and let me/us know their reactions and if it triggered anything for them.

    I hadn't realized that I'd hung onto to that tiny hurt from so long ago, but am grateful for it now. Funny, that.