October 25, 2016 § Leave a comment
It’s been a week of ups and downs, watching my children grind through the mechanics of personal struggles. Some common to their age, others unique to their personalities. The only universal space between their discomfort was my reaction, the language I used to acknowledge their emotions.
I’m working to listen through the urge to guide, offering empathy over direction. In trading the wisdom of my experiences for serving as a witness to my children’s challenges, they’ve gained greater authority and accountability for their mistakes as well as their success. They are growing up and this task of mothering is no less difficult for their independence.
There’s grace in the growing.
October 20, 2016 § 4 Comments
It was a day like so many, an indecisive in between; cool breezes and scorching sun. I waited on my daughter’s bus, curled into our porch chair, book in hand and sandals kicked aside. Propping my feet onto the little side table, I marveled at the sensation of heat against my heels as the air chased my coat collar closer to my chin.
I’ve been savoring these afternoons in between, steeping in the late afternoon sun. Our dog and I collect painted leaves while the wind tugs recklessly at my hair. Wandering our neighborhood I gather the discarded riches of bare limbs, golds and reds I will later find forgotten as I empty pockets to launder pants.
There’s magic in the brevity of this moment and I’m in no hurry to forecast early flurries or daydream of daffodils.
October 17, 2016 § 4 Comments
This month’s One Little Word exercise prompted a reflection on music; the words that speak to a language of self. While others might have gathered lyrics, I’ve been reflecting on the spaces of music in my day and the sound of my family’s routines.
Breakfast begins with my daughter’s music; for her, it is the shortest distance between sleep and wakefulness. Inviting this into our morning routine has created a distracted efficiency and shorthand of self, I’ve become familiar with the words she sings in the same way I might get to know a new friend.
My husband and son use time others might use for listening to music for a favorite radio show; rather than singing in harmony they laugh in concert and there’s something wonderful about that sound itself. Early morning rides to school or weekend errands, they pick up the thread of story in snippets of time while tethering themselves to new memories.
For my part, the novelty of my short drive to work has fostered small changes; no longer do I turn the radio off. Where once I used to crave silence, using time alone to breathe in the stillness of quiet, these days I’m exploring music.
There is no one song for this moment, no mix-tape of memories; only a curious listening as I fill new minutes to a soundtrack of change. Wholehearted has gifted me permission to play at uncertain delight, listening more to the emotions beneath my choices as I work through the relationship between sound and self.
October 11, 2016 § 5 Comments
This morning, as you finished your last bite of breakfast and I began a second cup of coffee, you told me about an uncomfortable experience at school. A teacher you were secretly certain doesn’t like you.
There were lots of specific details that you tallied as evidence. For a moment I considered asking you to act out the worrisome behavior, but I trust your intuitiveness; you’re pretty good at reading people.
Playing devil’s advocate would only make you second guess yourself and I had a bigger question in mind.
Does it matter?
Beyond respect, can we really expect anyone to like everyone?
No matter how much I love you, it’s possible your teacher doesn’t like you. (Of course, it’s just as possible she does.)
Instead, I asked about your work, if the pace of the teacher’s lectures or expectations had left gaps in your understanding. If liking one another, the relationship you share or don’t, gets in the way of learning. If it is possible to be respectful and fair without posturing an insincere standard of “like.”
It’s a conversation that has kept me thinking all day about my own expectations, of self and others.
On the surface it’s painfully simple to dismiss someone else’s emotions for our own, but it is even more worrisome to twist ourselves into another’s acceptance and loose the shape of our selves. I hope you like yourself.
October 10, 2016 § 3 Comments
There isn’t always time enough to gather the minutes into record, to hold the emotions on paper while the sentiments are still chasing around my thoughts. This weekend one of my daughter’s oldest friends surprised her with a visit and I wish, more than anything, I could preserve their time with words.
Fragments of their hours together float to the surface of my attention and I smile without effort, unable to shake the joy that stuck to my daughter’s cheeks.
I can still hear the memory of my daughter and her friend singing in off-key harmony as we drove between tourist attractions as loudly as their companionable silences; those times when sitting beside one another the air sparked with the telepathy of their thoughts.
Emphatic statements of generous understanding and empathetic uncertainties, passionate optimism and uncluttered kindness. They didn’t just trade stories, they offered pieces of themselves with fiercely unguarded honesty.
They are kinder, wiser, more curious and less cautious for the sure-footedness of their friendship. Keepers of one another’s emotions entrusted to guard their memories as tenderly as their dreams.
This morning our home felt too quiet and the minutes too short for the fullness of their company and the weight of their goodbyes.
October 7, 2016 § 1 Comment
I want to dog-ear this day, to gently balance the pages of this week so that the story will unfold where I left off when I have time enough to write. It has been a week of lost hours and seemingly endless days.
In all the unexpected worry and delight there have been sturdy truths that lent care; no matter the burden of the day’s demands there was always time enough to be still and find joy.
This is what I want to hold closely as we unravel into the weekend, mindfulness and gratitude.
September 28, 2016 § 5 Comments
Years ago our daughter told her elementary school nurse that she was home sick. The nurse and secretary called me so that I might offer encouragement, but our daughter patiently explained to me that she was the kind of sick that needs to go home.
It was a time when our daughter’s language was jumbled in order, when we had to listen intentionally to the entire thought and then double-check her meaning.
Less patient teachers, family and friends would finish her thoughts, rush the pattern; leap to false conclusions in their best efforts to demonstrate understanding. Most times our daughter gave up, burdened by the frustration of being misunderstood, and waited in silence to unpack her feelings at home.
Our daughter is no longer flagged for needs, her diagnosis no longer invites intervention or special care like her older brother. There are still long pauses and endearingly obscure turn of phrases, but she’s become better about speaking out and standing up for her thoughts.
It’s made her a more generous listener, more conscientious speaker; it’s made me a better listener, too. Sometimes.
I was thinking of this during our son’s school conferences. Specifically, the manner in which we are constantly assigning and infusing meaning with little clarification or confirmation.
In two classes our son had fallen behind, but both teachers spoke generously of his ability and gently of his anxiety. The language of his grades was an incomplete picture of his relationship with his teachers and classroom experience.
I had attended the evening’s conferences with a list of worries and questions, but I found myself listening, rather than speaking, to an unexpected pattern of meaning. Our son was repeatedly identified as a perfectionist with extreme anxiety over performance. He was noted as a respectful student and a thoughtful peer. A young man with artistic ability and unique math skills struggling with an internalized set of doubts and fears.
In the space of an hour I stopped worrying about performance and became immeasurably curious about our son’s emotions and the gaps between our conversations.
What I wanted to see was secondary to what my son might need his father and I to know.
The past couple of days I’ve been speaking less, listening more; changing my expectations and asking new questions. I’m assigning a different value to those worries I used to dwell on and double checking red flags for meaning.