Last night Kyler stayed up too late. It hasn’t happened in awhile but sometimes she is unable to regulate herself and sobs so much she can make herself throw up. In these moments she needs to be held close, hearing my breath and heartbeat as I rub her back, soothing her until she can relax again. She’s older now, so I her lay down on her bed while I scratch her back. It took maybe 30 minutes of soothing lullabies and patience, standing over her bed as I led her back from the edge. Those are my hardest parenting moments—because it’s the end of the day and bedtime and I am moments away from just having some time alone. But I stayed with her.
I told Doug later I don’t know why sometimes it’s easy to make the harder choice. Some nights I will quit and slam doors and yell to get what I want and other nights it’s easy to set aside my wants and needs and be fully present and engaged in whatever battles my kids are experiencing. I knew Kyler was just tired and needed to go to sleep. But yelling at her would have exacerbated the situation. Yelling doesn’t seem to solve much in my house…
I read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown a few months ago. It was one of those books I wish I had read years ago. But this was the time when the words would click into place. A teacher once told me it had to the be the right word, at the right time, with the right tone to be life-giving/changing. So while I know the lessons in this book are ones I’ve been figuring out on my own the last ten years and here they are so conveniently packaged into one little book, I wouldn’t have heard the words before now. I had to go the long way round. I needed the years of struggle and battle and mistakes to see the rich, deep earth waiting.
She writes about shame, vulnerability, relationships, and being brave. Her words are well-chosen and full of grace as she confronts our deepest hurts and fears, and challenges us in our own interactions with people. We live in a shame-based world—trying to make people feel bad for a mistake, playing judge and jury more often than friend or confidante. And even with our own children, when their behavior doesn’t match what we’d like to see, we try to make them feel worse about their poor choices. It feels like common-sense that I am my children’s biggest advocate, but so often all I see is mess, rather than the little beating heart behind the mess.
As I write a book about relationships—friendship especially—this book showed me what I have been fleshing out in my friendships. That there is a whole heap of kindness that is forgotten, or a choosing not to be mad because someone misspoke. A trust that they didn’t actually mean to hurt me and I can get to the bottom of things instead of wallowing. That relationships take time, and sometimes years to develop. It’s a slow process sometimes interrupted and set-back. The people I am closest to I have known for over two years and we have grieved together—they have carried my pain as if it were their own and I have carried their’s. There are late night texts, impromptu coffee dates, and driving miles and miles so a friend doesn’t have to go it alone.
I learned I sometimes chose tasks over connection, mistaking them for the same thing. With homeschool and laundry and basketball practice and gymnastics and maintaining friendships, I have used being “here” as enough. I show up. I put in my bit—but I’m not actually in the trenches. I have gotten lazy. After school, I am done with my kids. They go off and play and I sit on the couch and read, or check email, or rush off to a work out. I don’t talk or engage or enter their worlds. I like being around them so much. I get to see their personalities and they way they learn. But we go down the list and when it’s over I want to escape from the little needy hands and all the emotions.
But I’m learning. Relationships take time and energy. They take more than showing up. If I want to know my kids into their thirty’s I have to know them now. I’m learning that my children are little humans with their own thoughts and desires about life and how it works best. I’m learning to see them. I’m constantly relearning how to parent them and shucking off old things that aren’t working for our family. I can’t control them. If Kyler wants to cry for forty-five minutes about going to bed, she gets to make that choice. As her mom there’s a way I can come alongside her and lead her through it. Right now I get to do that—later, it will be her choice if she wants that direction.
I want to be the mom she needs now…and I want to become the mom she still wants when she’s a teenager and a young adult and whatever else she gets, or chooses, to become.
I’m learning that the same work I put into my friendships is the work I need to put into my marriage, and into my kids. It’s been easy when they’re babies to soothe and comfort and to know what they like and dislike. But one of my kids is 12. I have to get a lot more creative about what connection looks like with her. I’ve started noticing others hear her stories because they’ve made time for them—in my task-oriented behavior, I haven’t made room for connection or relationship. I feed her. I teach her. I make sure she has clean clothes and is learning appropriate grooming. But I don’t know her. I’m putting together a Christmas gift list for her and I feel sad that I don’t know what she likes. I forgot connection.
Parenting trumped relationship.
But now I get to try again. I get to build and rebuild the bridges, slowly one step at a time.
I think we all desire connection and relationships, but we have forgotten how hard they are—that they aren’t always easy or fun to develop or maintain…and it requires a huge level of vulnerability because we will make mistakes and have to apologize. We will have to forgive even if we don’t really want too, and we have to be teachable and tender-hearted towards one another. It’s differently hard when it’s my kids, my husband, or my friends. But the attention to detail and the vulnerability are overarching themes I’m seeing—strands woven throughout.