Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Feeling It

I've kept a journal on and off (mostly off since getting married) for the last . . . let's just say since I was in sixth grade. Only it wasn't a "journal" then. It was a "diary." Journals are for record-keeping and for passing on to your children's children. Diaries are for burning before anyone else can find them and decipher the bubbly letters and the various initials of the boys you were madly in love with from week to week.

Oh, yes . . . I had a diary. And I wrote in it faithfully. Important stuff like, "He didn't even look at me today," and "I got a new haircut. I wonder if he'll notice." Or there's my very favorite: "All hope is forever lost." That last one was an entry in and of itself--no clues as to why I felt hope was lost, why ALL of it had to be lost, and why ALL of it was lost . . . FOREVER. But I'm pretty sure the hope was concerning the boy who didn't look at me and probably didn't notice my haircut.(You know who you are, SW!)

Last summer, I looked up from my driveway and caught my youngest (five at the time) tearing a hole in his screen window with some piece of hardware that had ended up on the ledge. Ready to lay into him for destroying our house, I took the stairs two at a time up to his room. And there he stood sobbing, looking out at the other kids playing in our backyard. He was completely oblivious to my impending rage--too caught up in his own sorrow.

So I took a deep breath and knelt next to him on the floor. He glanced down at me and then crumpled, heartbroken, into my lap.

He'd been betrayed by his sister and her friend. Of course, he didn't put it quite like that. It was more like, "They dared me to pee in the pool and then I did and then they laughed at me and said they were going to tell on me." And it wasn't the "telling on me" part that upset him. It was the realization that the three of them weren't in on the fun together: it was them against him. They weren't laughing with him: they were laughing at him.

I didn't have the heart to punish him for the hole. I realized while he cried and cried, and it had "only" taken me thirteen years as a mother to get there, that my feelings are no more valid than my child's. Perhaps they're even less valid at times, because they're complicated by logic and a facade of maturity and the need to be the adult.

I've worked a lot over the last year to slow down my "reaction time" a little. I've tried to be six and nine and (heaven help me!) twelve and fourteen when I'm dealing with my kids' emotions. I've tried to take the steps one at a time instead of two. I've tried to take more deep breaths and to imagine what my children would write in their journals about who didn't understand them or notice them or simply listen to them.

When I was in high school, I went on a huge Richard Bach kick. Jonathan Livingston Seagull wasn't enough for my sixteen-year-old self. I had to read everything he ever wrote. (Weaker teenagers would've collapsed under the weight of my microcosm.) And one of my favorite quotes of his was "Not being known doesn't stop the truth from being true."

Okay, so that one doesn't really have a lot to do with the point I'm trying to make here, but, like I said, it was one of my favorites. However, he also wrote, "The simplest things are often the truest." And what's simpler than a child's emotions? Kneeling down on the floor next to a child in the midst of a tantrum--his or yours--is the best and fastest way to figure out how to calm the heck down.

The hole is still in the screen. Unlike the little boy who made it, it's small enough to be inconsequential.


AngryBaker said...

I have a distinct memory of being 12 years old, sitting on my bed and forcing myself to remember my overlooked feelings. I don't remember what actually happened. I know it was focused on my mom. I only remember thinking over and over again that I would always remember how it felt so I wouldn't overlook the feelings of my own children.

It was probably something stupid, but I find it interesting that all of these years later I think of it. Props to my 12 year old for her future thinking.

Brigid Kemmerer said...

Oh, Bobbie, I miss you so much! *SNIFF* When are you coming home?