When you are a parent of young children, you can’t even imagine what it would be like to be called and told that there was a tragedy at your child’s school. I have a hard time figuring out where to put the Connecticut shooting in my brain….and my heart doesn’t even want to begin to touch it yet.
Last night Micah had one of those difficult nights in which he refused to follow anything I asked. It started escalating into a series of his “swear” words….”you’re an idiot; you’re stupid;….” all aimed at me. I kept trying to remain calm and asking him to come upstairs to bed, starting to layer on consequences as the battle continued. We had reached no Mommy-sitting-in-bed-with-you, no TV times 3 days, no Mommy iPhone when you wake up at 6am, and had just moved to “you-will-not-sleep-in-bed-with-me-tonight when you come crawling over around midnight.” I stood yelling at him that he was not going to treat me like that – calling me names….for I am his parent (despite the fact that I was so clearly not acting like a very mature adult at the time). (Sometimes it’s hard for me to figure out where the “line” is ….do you let them be rude or do you draw some strong expectations? Is this the time for the lesson or is it better to wait for another time?)
He finally slinked into bed. I sat in the hallway rather than lying beside him with my arm around him. And yet, I didn’t really feel justified in my punishment, sitting there on the hard wood floor as he tucked himself in. He quickly fell asleep and it was hours before I did….I lay in bed last night feeling the sadness of the recent deaths of so many young children wash over me. Crying that I had just yelled at my own 6-year-old….as tender and precious as he is (much of the time)….and realized that I was listening for every sound that might say that he was waking up and was coming to my room….so that I could say “I forgive you and I’m sorry for yelling at you” and wrap him into my arms.
And that’s what I did at 11:45 at night – sat up on the side of the bed and held his face and said, “I’m sorry. I love you.” He climbed in and slept in such a way that my back was terribly sore in the morning and yet I was so glad that he was there. Knowing we don’t remember much in the middle of the night, I repeated my words in the morning with a hug. He said something about whose fault it was….and then bounded out of the room asking “what does fault mean?”
What a world these kids have to figure out. Just a few days ago Micah asked “what does love mean?” How do I explain these concepts to the young child….. I have not talked to any of the boys about Connecticut. We did talk about the death at the Pittsburgh Zoo last month, because that is near to us. But the killing of young children would just be such a big burden to them. How would I explain that? So the grief for the families, I hold in my heart. And I hold within me the grief for the children who survived that terrible experience.
Tonight I read the words of a Buddhist monk who said, “A five-year-old child is always vulnerable, fragile and he or she can get hurt very easily, so I have to handle a five-year-old child in a very gentle way. A five-year-old child as a flower get hurt and the wound will stay for a long time. And most of us have been five year old and the inner child in us is still alive. And the little child in us, in you all, may still have wounds within.” (Brother Thay)
So I wonder about those children in Connecticut. And I wonder how to make sure I do not wound my child with my words or my action. And I wonder how I can make a difference in the world to protect children. And I thought to myself last night that every night when I talk to the boys as they fall asleep, that I would tell them of at least one thing that I loved about them that day. (Tonight I told Micah that I loved seeing how he was learning to wrestle “gently” – that he was taking care not to hurt Noah and Ryan while they bounced around on the floor, body slamming each other and sitting on each other. If you know our house, this is a huge accomplishment and I hope it will last longer than one day!)
An elderly man stopped me on my way out of a coffee shop yesterday after Micah’s basketball game. He wanted to tell me that Micah had such a beautiful face and it made him think of all those kids who were hurt. And he wanted to find ways to make a difference – in fact, he was going to call the principal of a school that had recently just let him walk right in to “drop off a package”!! And, he thanked me for doing so well with parenting Micah. He probably doesn’t know how much those words touched me. I may slip. I may fall into the abyss of yelling at my boys. I will make tons of mistakes in parenting. But I am committed to every day being the best parent I can be in loving and protecting my boys and praying that God will fill in when I fall short….again this morning…and I know again tomorrow.