He looked over at his friend, K, hurt. How could he have abandoned him? He thought they were best of friends, and now he’s over there, sitting with someone else.

B stood there, confused, and somewhere in his little heart, pain seaped and seared. Soon, his eyes glistened. He quickly covered them with the tips of his fingers, willing the tears to disappear.

Don’t cry. DON’T CRY, he seemed to say, without saying, as he gripped his glasses by the lenses, his eyes tightly shut. But try as he might, B could not hold them back. His mouth pursed and trembled, and he looked hopelessly at his forgetful friend, K. Defeated, B walked over to his teacher, his face locked in a solemn grimace, struggling silently.

Miss J gently placed him on her lap and whispered comforting words in his ear. Wiping his tears away, B gave K one final look. And then he let his friend go. Maybe tomorrow, he might’ve thought. Maybe tomorrow, I will get to sit by K.

This little scenario happened today at Rae’s preschool, and it broke my heart, along with that of his mom’s and those of us working today, because it’s happened to all of us. To our children. And it sucks.

Exclusion. Rejection. Jealousy. These are uncomfortable, hopelessly unfair but “that’s life” situations that gets parents of preschoolers bristling with tension and worry all the time. We want to jump to the rescue of our confused little babies even though we know we ought not to. I think this is the hardest part of parenting for me: To not overprotect.

A year ago, I was frantic with worry about how to teach my then three-year-old the dynamics of society, and basically, How to Deal With Other People Out There.

Like other children, she had problems with exclusion with some of her preschool friends. Preschoolers are fickle little people who change best friends the way they change their minds about everything else, at the flick of a switch. How do I explain this to my own fickle little girl without forever tainting her yet-developing understanding of friendship?

I didn’t.

Of course, if it were entirely up to me, I would most likely have words with those kids. But it’s not.

So time after time, rejection after rejection, exclusion after exclusion, we would talk. Or I would, while Rae sobbed and wailed and basically cried her little eyes out about ‘losing’ a friend to so-and-so. She was crushed so many times, and me with her. It was horrible. What am I talking about? It’s still horrible.

Today really made me think about Rae, and how much she’s grown. Sure, she still has a weepy moments when her friends decide to play without her, but she has learned to move on without falling apart every single time.

Or at least some of the time.