November 18, 2013 by Angel Pricer
It was supposed to be a nice ‘just the three of us’ kind of Friday. Dad was home from work and my oldest was awaiting interim home-bound education instruction, but when my youngest woke with crusty pink eyes, three turned into a four letter word…WORK…and a lot of it!
Weekends have historically been the most labor intensive days of the week, followed by extended school holidays. Don’t even get me started about the not-so ‘lazy days’ of summer. “Keep ‘em separated” was my mantra all summer long. Anytime my boys are together for more than 15 minutes, I have multiple opportunities to fine-tune my counseling abilities. If only that practice could pay the bills.
It had been a while since I sat and played with the boys together. Play isn’t just fun and games with my kids. It’s a labor of love that commands my focused presence, at least, if it’s going to be sustainable. Since I had managed to carve out a sliver of self care the day before, I was up for the challenge.
The boys chose Playdoh, and I was glad because rolling the soft dough in my hands while they compete for my attention to ‘look at this, mommy’ has a calming effect. I had just returned from the kitchen, a cup of hot coffee in my hands, when my oldest proudly presented me with a perfectly formed gingerbread man he had just made “all by himself.” He was grinning ear to ear, and I was delighted to see him engaged in an off-screen activity.
My youngest, however, was more interested in calling his brother out by exclaiming that the gingerbread man was made with a mold, and not by hand. I called a time out mere moments before my oldest was poised to pitch an empty Playdoh container in his brother’s direction.
I took a deep breath, which is their cue to do the same, placing my palm up for a moment of silence, then assured them that everyone would have a chance to speak without interruption. When I asked my youngest why he felt the need to clarify how the gingerbread man was made, he did not hesitate in his reply. “I wanted to ‘do the right thing,’ Mommy, because he was lying about making that gingerbread man all by himself.” My boys share a keen sense of justice.
“So, you wanted to do the right thing?” I said, validating his insightful response. By this time, his brother was wriggling in his seat for a chance to share his hurt feelings and gain recognition for holding his temper and not retaliating. After about 10 minutes of processing, we were able to agree that sometimes speaking up is the right thing to do, and sometimes it means letting go. It’s a choice we all have to make, and they are not the only ones for whom it is a struggle.
Kids don’t need us to tell them that they shouldn’t tattle or hurl inanimate objects at each other. They already know that. What they really need is for us, as parents and caregivers, to be present and calmly hold the space for them to become aware of why they are doing these things. And you know what? They are REALLY good at it when we give them the opportunity.
As the responsible adults in their lives, it is up to each of us to bring awareness to what’s beneath the surface in our own relationships. What are we making a big deal over? Why? What do we feel we need to be right about? Where does this need come from?
Sometimes it’s wise to “keep ‘em separated,” because without the necessary support, it’s not possible to play, and work through whatever comes up in the moment. But it’s work worth the effort, especially when they demonstrate a profound sense of awareness under nurturing guidance. And they are willing to practice this because they don’t want to be separated, they want to love and be loved.
Children are our mirrors, playing out the same limited perceptions that are on stage daily, both individually and collectively. That’s not a game I’m interesting in playing any more. How about you?
Image courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net