I had two conversations this evening, in which I had opposite perspectives, that collided into one great defining and teaching moment for me.
I love those. It's like a big fat HELLO! from God.
I was talking to my mom on the phone about another family member. I was remembering how, growing up, this person was a great listener, and that was something that impacted me positively. I always knew that I could go to them to talk, and be listened to, that what I had to say mattered, my thoughts and feelings, there was no judgement, no "parental"-like argument about what I should/should not do. It gave me the chance to think through my own thoughts and come to my own, maybe slightly guided, conclusions about life, love and all that lay in between. There was no need on the part of the other person, as my mom eloquently stated, to be the professional, the fixer, the solution finder. Instead, they offered love and support in the form of a listening ear.
At another point in the conversation, my mom made a statement about remembering who we are in Christ, that I am a child of God, and that's where our identity lies, not in our profession or status or whatever marker society has flagged for us.
Fast forward about 20 minutes when I put the kids to bed. I had lost my temper, George getting the brunt of it, in my frustration over last-minute "I'm hungry's" and the never ending stalling about going to bed. After rescuing Mr. Huggyface from the dreaded couch pillow that attacked him while I was upstairs (poor guy was wailing something fierce), I retreated back upstairs to re-check on things. Girls were tucked, Koko lovingly reading a story to Cheeks, Boots was zonked, and George asked why I had come into his room. This just led into him getting a very sad lip, and I knew I needed to apologize for my temper and hand out a few hugs to smooth over then jagged edges my flare had left behind. Boy, I just didn't know what was coming.
George has never been a fan of school. There are a million and one reasons why, all valid, but as a parent I get tired of the whining and complaining and obstinance in regards to all things school related. Undeniably, my listening skills go flying out the window; I just don't want to hear it anymore. And the same applies to "mama's time", when all kiddies are supposed to be in bed, and one trots down with reason #547 as to why they should stay up or can't fall asleep, etc. The last thing I want to do is listen to more kid stuff. I want to be selfish and have "me" time and relax, do what I want, have a nice snack, etc without interruption, without someone demanding/needing something from me. I do not want to hear about how he hates math or whatever the case may be. But tonight, I knew I needed to sit, hug, and listen.
There's nothing that pulls at your heartstrings more than when your child, alligator tears streaming and sad lip protruding, says he doesn't have any friends, no one likes him, and no one will play with him. My first inclination was to ask why, and what can you do, etcetera and so on. You know... FIX. But this became a very circular conversation, in which I eventually just said, well, sorry and go to sleep. Loving, eh?
So down I trotted, babe in arms, to have as much "me" time (on FB) as I could, dismissing the complaints of my eldest child. But as I sat down at the computer, the mommy guilt set in. What did I do? What could I do? What was it that we may have done wrong in parenting? Were we not rich enough? Cool enough house? Fun enough parents? Have we failed at providing good examples of friendship relationships? Is there something wrong with my child? Was this because I was not a "popular" kid in school? Was I passing my "misfit"-ness along to him, to suffer the social torment I experienced from third grade on?
Such heavy questions.
It was a comment from a Facebook friend that zinged in and hit the bulls eye, smack on center.
"Just hug him and tell him how much u love him and remind him how much God loves him too!"
Listen, affirm his feelings, remind him of the truth, love. Do not fix.
Not that as a parent we can't do things to help, but ultimately the best thing is to let them figure out how to "fix" things themselves.
By this time he had come downstairs to continue the argument as to why I should let him stay up late and skip school. So I got up and went to him, gave him another hug. I told him that I was sorry he had hard times at school, that people saying mean stuff to him hurt my feelings too because I knew what a great kid he was, and I love him so much, and so does God.
And then, he went to bed with not much arguing.
A very big reminder to listen first, love more. But don't rush in to "tell him all the stuff he needs to know in this life lesson." He'll figure it out, I'm sure. Life has a way of working itself out. My ability to listen to him, to offer my attention and my love, to teach him who he IS, that he has worth in my eyes and in God's, speak more to his heart than any grand schemes at play dates and friend making I could conjure up.
Bingo. Past and present unite. And I just reminded myself of what kind of parent I want to be.