Shannon is a homeschooling momma of two boys who also works as an online teacher for a DL school. She has a lovely way of writing about the poignancy of parenthood. This is one of my favourite posts as it caused me to really take a close look at how respectful I am towards my own child... and I'm so happy she let me share it here.
Just the other day the boys and I were at home doing our thing. We were having what the boys call "a home day." It is what they ask for quite regularly to integrate new experiences, information and ideas in to their world.
I was starting to cook up some food for dinner and the boys were lounging in my bed, watching Disney channel, when off in the distance I heard the high pitched screaming of a child. The child was screaming "no, no, no, no" repeatedly in a desperate sort of manner. To say it broke my heart was an understatement. I took a moment to ground myself in the knowing that I hadn't a clue of what was going on or what the parent and child interaction looked like and to cultivate compassion for all parties involved in this heart wrenching altercation. And then it went on and on and on and on. I scoped the areas close to my home, in hopes of catching the interaction and offering a smile, or hand if it looked safe. However, I could not get a visual on the heart broken child. So I stood on my deck and I cried. I cried for the child who was so obviously asserting their desire for something to stop and I cried for the adult who wasn't able to hear that see that or meet the child's need.
Later in the evening, the boys and I were discussing what I had heard and how I so desperately wished I could help out. Mitchel so wisely said, "Ya but the parent might not have liked that." This caused me to pause before offering up a response. To me, the child is just as important as the adult and if I can show up and simply offer a smile that breaks the moment or let's the child know their is an adult in the world who recognizes them in their distress, that's enough. I think he got that for the most part. But me I kept on thinking.
How often in our world do we overhear parents talking about their children using negative language? How often do we hear parents discussing funny or embarrassing moments right their in front of their obviously uncomfortable children? I think this sends a subtle, quiet message that us grown ups are far more important then children. I mean heck, really this is only the tip of the iceberg in the number of ways this message is given to children over and over and over again in mainstream society.
This whole ideas has always baffled me, from childhood, through University and in to parenting. My wondering is this, is respect something you have to earn? Or is it something you give freely to those around you in order to be open to receiving it right back at you? And what is the magical age by which you arrive that gives you "power" over others? Is it your right as an adult to then make up for all those years you wished someone would listen to you or take you seriously by disrespecting and holding power over younger smaller people?
I am thankful for that fact that I have always questioned the value of one age group over another. I truly believe it is the driving force behind how I came to know the little people I was blessed to work with in a number of "work" situations. I remember, once, a mother saying to me, "I wanted you to work with my child because you always bend down to talk to her at eye level." What was shocking here was two part, the first being I had no conscious clue that this is what I was doing. And secondly, that others around me weren't.
When I first met my boys it made sense to me that their will and desire was on par with mine. It was one of those things that came from with in. I was surrounded during my early parenting years by parents who were desperate to have their children sleep, who were using anything from Ferber to the Baby whisperer to make this happen. I just could not bring myself to get in the way of what ever need it was that my young sons had that waked them. I mean come on we spent our ever waking moment wrapped up in each other, why suddenly when the lights went out would they want to be separated from me for 10-12 hours. I struggled in the face of others who cringed at my nursing toddlers, somewhere in me I knew their need to receive nourishment from physical contact with me was just as important as my need to for personal space.
For me a huge part of honoring my children's importance lies in the place where I take them seriously. A few days back, Makinley announced "I am going to work in a toothpaste factory when I grow up." There are many a response I could have come back with that discouraged this any thing from, "you won't get rich doing that" to outright laughter would have crushed his very in the moment determination. Instead, I listened and took him quite seriously. To which he explained, "and mom I am going to ask my boss if I can bring some toothpaste home for you so you won't have to buy it anymore. I hope I can be the guy who puts the cap on at the end." Wow, he had given this some careful consideration and was asserting his dreams, hopes and ideas about the future while also considering my economical needs. This was a tender sharing by a young person who's dreams are just as important as mine.
As I move through the challenges of parenting I am continually called to bite my tongue, to keep my thoughts and ideas quiet while holding my children in space that is as valuable as my own. Cause sure, I can apologize later for the mistakes I make (cause there are plenty of those) but grander are the moments when I can keep my internal dialogue to myself while holding my child in the space that reflects how we are equally important in this world!
© Shannon L. 2010, reposted by kind permission.