November 15, 2013 by Angel Pricer
It’s a familiar refrain. He’s said it at every school, out in the community, and at home. I’ve felt that way too, he’s just much more expressive about it, and at a more tender age. But it’s not the place from which he desperately wants to escape…it’s himself.
The house parents rotate seven days on, seven days off and when the new set came on duty last Thursday, my son was was mostly still consumed by the vulnerability of homesickness. On Tuesday, the house mom told me how polite and complimentary he was, sharing Eddie Haskell-esque quotes like:
“This is the best broccoli I’ve ever had!”
“We should really listen to what staff tells us to do.”
“I hope this honeymoon lasts forever,” she joked.
He couldn’t wait to tell me about the drum circle he and the boys from his house had with the staff member in charge of laying the groundwork for the school’s permaculture program. We thought he would LOVE the drums, since he loves bass (the louder, the better) and the vibration soothes him. Yet at home, he was always resistant to the suggestion.
His teacher reported mostly typical behaviors for a boy of his age, peppered with a little peer instigation, difficulty taking turns, and an explosion or two. This is to be expected, but the good news is that he demonstrates greater receptivity to redirection and is getting better at LETTING GO of the incident and moving on.
Things like this used to color his whole day and create a downward spiral. I attribute this growth to being with the same group of kids all day, every day, at school and at home, and receiving consistent, loving support to process in the moment. He’s even enjoying reading aloud and, when it wasn’t his turn, he drew a smiley face and slid it to his teacher!
Later in the week, as he showcased his swearing sailor repertoire and flicked another student in the face for no apparent reason, it became clear that the honeymoon is over. And, that’s a good thing. Why? Because if he didn’t exhibit the full spectrum of behavioral issues that gained him entrance to the school in the first place, he’d never learn how to deal with them.
As his mother, I find it interesting that it was his presence on the scene of my life that sparked my own relentless journey of self inquiry. The last 9 ½ years of my life have been a brutal initiation of taking radical responsibility for myself and my choices. Sound familiar?
There’s no escape from the self; but we get to choose whether we look within or go on lashing out.
Now, with the support of a rotating staff of heart-centered beings, my son is making the choice to master his emotions and take responsibility for his actions. I tell him what a super-power that is, and that many adults haven’t yet learned how to do this! It makes him smile.
I didn’t have a rotating staff of benevolent beings as I worked through the sticky substance of my own creations (at least, not of the visible variety). There were friends and the occasional mental health professional, but they could only walk into the waters with me as far as they themselves had gone before. It was never far enough. I wanted to plunge, to the bottom, unsure if I’d make it back safely but ecstatic and alive with each resurfacing breath.
Children like my son are emotional barometers, responding to a world that is too distracted to pay attention to what really matters. To care for them, we must care for ourselves. Being distracted and disingenuous just doesn’t cut it with these kids.
I used to think I had to be the perfect mom. Now I know I just have to be who I am. I used to think I had to do it all on my own. Now I am forging some amazing partnerships.
Know Thyself. It’s exhausting work and there is no escape. Full throttle engagement with life is a frightening, dangerous prospect, but it has its rewards. One of which, 9 ½ years in the making, just called to tell me about the dolphin diorama he’s been working on.
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net