Eating humble pie

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 remember anyway.

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 self-fulfilling prophecy.

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.

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