There it was again…
I was in the midst of
another mad clean up – trying in vain to create some sense of order in this
little boy chaos. One moment, relieved to find the camp-pack-list that had been
misplaced earlier, next moment annoyed
.. there it was again.. but not for long, I scrumpled it up, tossed it. It was
a whim, and I had no capacity to really deal with it right now .. he wouldn’t
Now, days later, I’m in the midst of trying desperately to
just sit for 10 minutes and get something productive done. Subservient work of
mine that cowers to the back seat in favour of everyone else’s needs.. and
there are many needs with 3 children, one of whom is a very demanding little 19
month old toddler, a husband, 2 dogs and a household to run, never mind
everything else that life relentlessly throws.
My eldest, 10 years, enters. Controlled but clearly hurt, he
announces his plea. He doesn’t want anything for Christmas, he just wants some
attention. (Really?) And then there it is again. He has not forgotten, he has
mulled this thing over in his head so many times that those figures are
entrenched, the maths exact. I get the verbal recount of what I thought fit to
toss – it’s a pie chart! Moms attention divvied up into bits – who gets what.
Toddler Isla scores 50% of my attention – he scrapes through with 5%. Perceptively he pretty much nails my poor
work at 10%. That bit is true.
I feel flustered, annoyed. I sit for a bit and stare up. An
appalling true story flits past a corner of my brain. It unfolded just a month
ago in my town. An 8 year old little girl who left a note explaining her
desperate final act to end all acts. A school-bullied girl who had tried to
tell each significant other in her life, but, so very sadly, none had taken the
time to listen.
A bit of an extreme example comparing a pie-chart note to a
suicide note, but I take the hunch. Deep breaths, I lay down my neglected work
once again, distract the other kids, and usher us into the kitchen to speak, or
rather, I remind myself, to listen. I’ve done the year-long counselling skills
course, I’ve majored in psychology. I know how to listen and not speak, calm
and therapeutic. I’m a therapist of 18 years after all. And yet applying this
to the ones you love most is so much harder. I can hear my mom speaking now
“it’s because emotion is involved”. She is right. It’s hard to divorce yourself
from emotion when face to face with your own.
He starts, he accuses, his eyes roll up, then well up. I
listen, I feel unfairly judged, I want to stop him, set him right. Thankfully I decide to bite my lip this time.
I nod, I acknowledge his feelings, I try and feel his hurt without offering a
“solution” – that usually shuts things down quicker than anything. I must admit,
at one point, I do interject and try to explain how we see life through our
perceptions, and the more we think about wrongs to us, the more we grow these
neural trees in our brain that fire up to confirm our beliefs every time
anything happens to us. Perceptions that warp the truth and create a
I don’t think he got what I was trying to say.
So I bite down again. And I apologize. How awful to feel
neglected by your safe house, because your personality is quiet and kind and
unassuming. I know where he gets it from. I know what he means. But he reminds
me that I am the second of two children, not the first of three, so no, I don’t
know what it is like to be him. He is right. Our discussion ends well, but I would
be unwise to think that that is the end of the discussion.
The first step in any process of change is simply being
aware. And so, I eat the humble pie, mull it over, take it on to take it in,
and I decide to take every feasible chance I get to see my boy, acknowledge his
many efforts, my guy, to lift him and love him back to the place where he
belongs, to banish any hint of favouritism, even if falsely perceived, to hug
him for a little bit longer, and hold him a little bit closer. And I write a
blog, it’s my “shout out” to you dear one.