He hangs in the door of my office and I can tell from his face that something is wrong.
"What is it honey?"
"The boys," he hesitates, tries to control his voice, "the boys won't play with me again. They keep saying that I'm not so good at soccer or basketball."
"Well, you aren't so good compared to them. They are bigger and have been playing a lot longer..." I wait for the rest.
"And they were making fun of me and said my pants are girl pants. and, and," his face crumples, "one of them even called me a piece of shit."
"I'm not so popular here," he manages. "I was more popular in our old neighborhood, I had more friends there. Here, not so much."
I lift my arms to him, to this boy, so sweet, and kind, and loving and he crumples his 9 year old body on to my lap like he hasn't done in years.
"It's hard honey. I know." I hold him close and kiss his forehead, resisting the urge to say what I think of those boys right now, to storm over and tell them how small minded and ignorant they are, how my boy is more mature than they even though they are a few years older. He at least is able to look past differences, to forgive, to practice kindness to people who are deliberately cruel to him.
I know doing that won't change anything so instead I sit and hold him in my lap as he cries until the sun goes down and the room grows dark. I tell myself it is good for him to experience adversity on occasion, to learn how to respond to the mean people and the critics that he will encounter all his life.
I tell him that I'm proud of him, remind us both that he doesn't have to be around them if he chooses not to. I reason that at least he doesn't go to school with them, or have to get on a bus with them everyday. He just keeps going over to try and make friends.
All this is true, but it doesn't fix right now. My boy has been hurt by kids who are mean, and I wipe away my tears in the dark, so he doesn't see.