Friday, July 20, 2012

The Bubble

When I woke up this morning and first heard the news about the mass shooting in the Colorado theatre, my heart sank. Not just because it was a tragedy for the people who lost their lives or their families, but because as a nation, as a mother, it was officially no longer an innocent activity to go the movies. It just reinforced every instinct I have ever felt as a parent that I think should be to broaden my children’s horizons, to show them the world. But it’s not. It’s to wrap them up in this tiny little town in a bubble and keep them as sheltered for as long as I possibly can, which isn’t nearly as long as it used to be.

I had this conversation the other day with my friend as we watched our children run through the sprinklers with relatively few cares in the world. She spoke of how, at 8, she was already seemingly losing influence or control over her son’s choices in this world. Before you know it, maybe they are 18 and they want to go see Batman play at the local theatre. And that doesn’t seem like such a bad choice, does it?
I know that having little ones is time consuming and space consuming and money consuming and all consuming and most of the time me consuming. But at the end of the day I can control what they eat, what they watch, where they go. I can close my eyes each night with the great comfort that they are tucked safely in their beds. I’m assuming that if I ask parents of teens and older children, they would instantly make the trade of late night feedings, over late night parties.
The bubble will burst. I know I can’t shield them from the heartache and suffering and abject insanity that makes it dangerous to go to the movies, or ride your bike forever. I know it’s coming soon. But until then I will say a silent prayer for as long as I can to keep all of us and all of you safe. As I watch my daughter run through the living room in her tutu and cape protecting a fake ice cream cone, I know Super Ruby can’t really keep us safe. I know she can’t live within the gift of blissful ignorance that childhood should be forever. But lord please keep them there for as long as possible.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Jerky Knees and the Power of Wrong

The other night I had one of those seemingly innocuous but quickly escalating epic battles with my husband over our son. The details of it actually aren’t really that important: he said he saw something in him that I did not. I told him he was a lunatic and a bad parent. I felt pretty heated and smug about the whole thing really. I mean, who was he to imply that he knew more about our son than me? The same “me” who fed that kid three meals a day and checked every mole, hair, tooth and hangnail on his body every hour of every day for pretty much the past four years. My husband rolled over and went to sleep, bloodied from our battle while I stormed around the house still seething. I should have been smug. He’d relented, given up his point. Why wasn’t I satisfied?

The next day, my sister called to invite me and the kids to the park. Which would have been nice had I not laced into her with a sharp recounting of the previous night’s fight and what my husband had the gall to do: make a recommendation for our son based on his observations as a parent. I mean, seriously. To her credit, she listened and with as gentle a posture as she could without further setting me off, suggested that perhaps there was something to what he was saying that was touching a nerve with me. Maybe I was seeing the same things with our son and that’s why I was reacting so strongly. Or not. But just maybe. Because of the maybe – the possibility of it all – she encouraged me to be open to his words. Not act on them, but be open to them.
Later that night I got to thinking about my conversation with her and the power of being open. Being open not only to what your partner is saying, but to the possibility that you might actually be wrong. Given the odds, at some point in some time, it’s going to happen. I also started thinking about Glennon Melton of Momastery.com. I’m a big fan of the way Glennon writes her blog, her homage to life’s most “brutiful” truths. Her most recent post was on knee jerk reactions. She wrote: “Go ahead and have a jerk reaction, but not out loud. Or maybe have it with your best friend, but don’t spew it on the person who confronted you. Don’t fight. Take a mini-flight. But while you flight, think. Stay with it. Stay open. Look inward instead of outward. WHY is this upsetting me so? What can I learn from this? What is this person, this confrontation, this discomfort trying to teach me? No dismissal. No counter-attack. Slip on the shoes of the offended. Walk around in them for a while. Then sit down and take a good look at yourself from her couch.”
And so I did. I sat with it a bit. I walked around. I’d knee jerked all over Phil and flopped my jerky knees all over my sister the next day. But now came the tough part. Why was I so upset? Was there some truth to what he suggested he was seeing? And was I bothered by the idea that he saw it first rather than me, the parent that is home with our kids so much and who should spot this stuff first. Or had I seen it and just not had the balls to say it to myself or to him. Was that what was bothering me? Actually, it didn’t really matter. All that really mattered was what I did next.

And what I did next was go up to my husband and apologize for not being more open to what he was saying. Regardless of whether I thought what he saying was true or not, he’s a parent too and he had a right to discuss something he felt was going on with one of our kids. And then I said I was wrong and he was right. And the world didn’t end when I said those words. It was actually pretty freaking powerful.
So from now on I’m going to own my knee jerky reactions. I’m still going to have them and give myself the space to do so. But I’m working more on figuring out why and being open to the possibility and power of wrong. But don’t you dare tell my husband I wrote this: we can’t have this whole thing go to his head.
Like I said – I’m working on it.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bridget Jones Teaches Me About Parenting

I hate it when my kids turn out to be smarter than me. I mean seriously, I really hate it. So tonight was particularly troubling and illuminating when after ripping into my son for the thirtieth time that day about something he was doing that I didn’t like, he said this to me: “You know Mommy, back when there was nobody in this town and just me, G-d handed me a magazine and said pick one. And I picked Daddy and I picked you Mommy, not for any other reason but because of who you are.” I looked at him, and promptly bawled my eyes out.

I guess this is really my Bridget Jones post – right? You know the infamous line from Mark Darcy to a downhearted Bridget after a disastrous dinner party: “I like you very much. Just as you are.” My son loves me for who I am. And at the tender age of four he is smart enough to know that there is pretty much nothing better for anyone at any time or age to hear. In that moment I realized the single biggest thing I needed to do and wasn’t doing for my kid: telling him that I love him just as he is. No IF clause or AND clause or WHEN clause. I think as parents (and by parents I’m talking specifically about my own ineptitude here) that we obsess a lot about what we need to DO to make our kids good people, as if there is some sort of action-oriented set of verbs that parents can use to produce kind souls and open hearts. But I’m pretty sure Dylan and Mark Darcy reminded me tonight that’s not really how it all works. We are who we are, frailties and all. And sometimes the very best we can do is remind each other that we are loved because, not in spite of those things.
So Dylan, hey listen up: I love you kid. I’m not sure how I got so damn lucky to have you pick me out of that magazine but I promise to thank G-d everyday for it. And I love you. Just as you are.