I originally posted this on July 9, 2013. As I wrote a new blog today, I realized that I need to sit with it a bit longer before sharing it. This, though, brought me healing. I needed this reminder.
Posted on July 9, 2013
It’s funny, what happens, when you sit down with your kids, and just be there. Quietly. No motive. No scurrying. In my all-time favorite parenting book, The Price of Privilege, Madeline Levine writes, “It is almost always in quiet, unpressured moments that kids reach inside and expose the most delicate parts of their developing selves.” Time and time again, I see this. It usually takes place in the car when the radio is off, when I’m all zoned out, and from the back seat I’ll hear a high pitched, sing-songy, “Hey Mooooom?” and I think, Here we go. We’re tapping into the stuff that matters most.
So anyway, today I hired a fabulous sitter to come and be with my kids for three hours so I could manage my photography business. While she was here, I heard that Ryan was downstairs sulking. My first instinct was to be with him. My second thought, honestly, was, I’m paying a sitter right now. I’m on the clock. Get work done NOW, cause it may be your last chance today.
I decided to follow my instinct. To check in. I wish I made that choice more often. Then again, I make that choice a lot. I sat down on a chair, with enough space for him next to me, if he wanted, and just said, “Hey Ryyyy?” kinda sing-songy. You know? ”Wanna talk about stuff?”
Immediately he came to the chair and filled that space next to me. We fit together perfectly.
“Yeah. But I can’t tell you why cause you’ll be mad.” His voice, when he’s trying not to cry, it gets really soft and high, and crackly, kinda, and it’s enough to break my heart.
“I’ll be mad? You sure?”
“Did you poison the dog?”
“No.” He laughs, knowing that Hannah, he and I are a solid trifecta that can NOT be separated. Ever. We have a thing that’s too beautiful to put into words.
“Did you hurt somebody on purpose?”
“Am I going to have to drive you to jail after you tell me?”
“K. I can’t promise, but I’m preeeetty sure that I won’t be mad. And even if I am, we’ll figure it out.”
He thinks. He sighs. He breathes. He waits. Finally, stuttering through his tears, he confesses. His fall from grace was that he failed to share some silly pool toy with his little sister. But there was a loophole in the sharing arrangement. It was his turn – he took a break – it was still supposed to be his turn, and he was, according to him, falsely accused of — get this… NOT SHARING. THE HORROR!
Still pressed together on the chair, his head on my chest, his tiny hand, with fingernails that need to be trimmed (how DO they grow so fast?), played with my sodalite necklace as we talked, and talked and talked. I wasn’t mad. I understood his side. I heard him. I got it. My words to him were lessons for me.
So after we worked through the “not sharing” debacle, he dropped a bomb on me.
That voice. Soft. High. Crackly. Stuttering.
“Why don’t you want to play with me…ever? You always have to edit or dance or do other stuff.”
Elise, I said, don’t make a list of excuses here. Don’t get defensive.
“I mean…I think…I think I do play with you Ryan, but I guess you want me to play with you more, huh?”
“Yeah.” (<—- Honestly, that “Yeah” was quite gracious, cause I really don’t play with him ever. But he let me have the “I think I do play with you” in that moment.)
Long pause. I waited for Ryan to contribute more information. To berate me. To tell me he was calling the mom police to take me off to mom jail for emotional negligence. I wish I’d said, “Tell me more,” but I don’t think I wanted to hear more. So I said, ”Good. Cause I want to play with you more. I’ve been meaning to build a new Geotrax track with you.” (Anything is better than Pokemon.) ”Oh! And remember how we used to read together before you could read yourself? Let’s read the Wizard of Oz again. The book is so much better than the movie.”
So, for this afternoon, the world will stop and I will, come hell or high water, PLAY. And I don’t mean Get-him-started-so-I-can-run-off-and-do-something-else play. And I don’t mean, Sure-I’ll-be-the-hat-or the Scottie-and-you-can-roll-the-dice-for-me-and-move-me-while-I-text-my-friends play. I mean PLAY. Be there. Be present. Look at how his eyelashes rub against his glasses when he blinks. Listen to how he strategizes to build a better track. Notice every new freckle that has appeared on his face this summer. Feel his hand on my knee when he leans over to move a train that won’t budge. Laugh. Sing a little. Embarrass him a little. PLAY. PLAY! P-L-A-A-A-Y!!!! Play. I’m going to get all up in there the way grandmothers play with their grandkids. Present and invested and enjoying.
(I’ll also take my camera out for about five minutes, but then I’ll put it away and keep playing, no matter how brilliantly the window light makes this beautiful boy’s huge blue eyes sparkle.)
We parents, we are blessed. We mess up and get disconnected and blow it a lot of the time. We choose laundry over Barbies. We rush bathtimes. We hold hands and drag toddlers instead walking at their pace. We walk when we could skip. We check out juuuust before a big emotional catharsis. We put or friends first. We tuck them in real fast so we can get on with the night. We worry about frizzing our hair instead of dancing in the rain. But again, and again, and again, we get chances. Second and third and fourth chances to get it right. I believe that our lessons keep coming back to us, in all different forms, until we learn them. How gracious of life to keep giving us opportunity after opportunity after opportunity. Restoring to us the years the locusts have eaten. Over, and over, and over again.
Marianne Williamson, another favorite author of mine, wrote about how she overheard her daughter say, “I miss my mommy even when she is here.” How blessed she was to hear that. I hear it too.
Off to play!
And not just today…every day!
Photos to follow….