It never gets easier to say goodbye to my children for a few days, no matter how stellar-awesome our coparenting relationship is. It hurts every time, and yet only reminds me of the gifts that they are and how grateful I am to have them.
“Mom, I think life is all about adapting.”
-the 10yr old
He’s right. Is he not?
Change is inevitable, yet we resist it to create a difference. It’s an oxymoronic concept to navigate, a messy set of twists and turns, and yet a simple idea when acceptance is applied.
In my profession, we often involve a term: “Self determination”, when evaluating or assessing for what we define as, “Effective change.” Sometimes we refer to it as, “Positive change.” Can a change be effective or positive without a client’s interaction and opinion of the proposed change? In my experience, no, it cannot.
I sit back in my children’s rooms after kissing and hugging them with all sincerity as they exited. I have a heavy heart and soggy eyes, as I cling to the message of positivity and love, which I handed to them as they entered their other place of upbringing. I’ve got one end, they’ve got another. If my heart has a superpower, it is indeed super-stretchiness. It extends beyond sight and although it has no limit, it respects individuality and is not sticky with agenda. My children have never been mine, just mine to care for. Two personalities, souls, lives, gifted to me to care for and encourage. To be the banks for, as they are their own rivers. To be the soft ground on which they will fall, yet the wind to encourage them to their feet once more.
My oldest sent this above text to me a few moments after our goodbyes. Our children hear our hearts when they feel we are listening to theirs. They know when we are being strong, or holding back. My kids tend to call me out when I’m NOT listening, which is healthy! I love that they feel this safety within our relationship, as I would want them to feel uncomfortable in a relationship that did not offer this kind of safe transparency!
I want it to remain so very normal for my kids to be safely honest with me, that they very quickly and easily recognize the uncomfortable feeling of being in a relationship with someone who does not offer this kind of safe dynamic. My relationship with them is a blueprint of normalcy.
This is not an easy environment to cultivate. It requires a recipe of many things, of which there is expected bad batches before the right mix is achieved. Even then, something as small as the weather can throw it off course. I tend to find a base-recipe for me includes:
- Silence & listening…not the kind of listening you do when you collect what you’ll respond to after they stop talking. In contrast, the kind that involves me trying my best to understand their perspective, how they are viewing things, and how they are in turn feeling about what they are discussing with me. Sitting with them in that very spot, not for advice-giving, but for support as they figure out they’ve got what it takes to get thru this, and they won’t have to do it alone.
- Respect & Questioning…the idea of reciprocity, to me, involves giving someone the kind of respect that THEY describe, not that I define. I want my children to listen to their hearts/maker/souls (however they choose to define their intuition) above all else. It is that “voice” that will make them truly happy, which as their mother makes ME truly happy. This requires me asking questions versus statements; treating them with the respect that although I am their guide, they are the experts of within themselves. They must be in tune with the voice of their own author.
- Honesty & laughter…my gosh if I can’t laugh at myself then what am I modeling for them?! My personality has never been shy in the presence of conflict. However, laughter at myself was one thing I had to learn to keep my pride and hard-driven certainty from over-seasoning a relationship. Often times this takes no words to model. But just a sincere consolation, a clever joining to say “me too”, or a hug and a jump into the limelight together.
I think one of the most common things we overlook as adults, is that often times when children and adolescents mess up, they are fully aware they messed up. They don’t need a spotlight, they need to know they will still be able to march forward. This is why I have the recipe above.
Too many adolescents sit in my office with the aftermath of a childhood without recipes for safety. Whether it’s anxiety, self-harm, pregnancy, anger, or drugs…they say very similar aspects with parents or adults were missed. Sometimes they are aware of this void, and other times they are not yet aware the problems they wrestle with are due to external factors. They have begun to define themselves as the problem. The flaw, the weird, the piece that does not fit, the color that does not match, or the person that only causes pain and struggle.
They are not victims. This is probably the first thing I attempt to help them see. Yes, they are experiencing the effects of other equally-flawed humans. They have done nothing to deserve maltreatment, nor to warrant a definition that has been applied and is weighing them down to the point of immobility. However, they ARE survivors, and can remove labels and break barriers.
To wrap it up, I come back to the concept of change. Perhaps it is not only the person’s willingness to change, but the belief of others that change is possible that makes change more attainable, positive, and effective. It is the calling out, required by loved ones (parents, partners, friends), within a safe zone of acceptance, yet firm and clear boundaries, where one grows and blooms into the unique potential that requires acceptance of inevitable change.
Ouch. I think I feel my heart having a growing pain.