I totally get it.
You’ve had kids for a while but you’re still swimming in new waters. You’ve never been to today. Never swum this far. And tomorrow? You’ll have to swim a little further.
Like, it’s his school swimming gala and our Cam is six years, nine months and fifteen days old and I’ve never been Mom to a kid this old before. It’s my first time doing with him this exact day. We’ve never come this far.
Somehow he fully believes he’s swimming in all the races because somewhere in the swim-as-fast-as-you-can trials he missed the fact that there were others in the pool whose hands touched to finish long before his. He’s not one of the chosen because we can’t all be the fastest. Besides, winning and losing aren’t really concepts for him. He just loves the swim.
So his heart breaks a bit and he’s sobbing lonely on the grass in a crowd of kids scuttling from the tuck shop to the starting blocks and there are whistles and loud announcements and he can’t find his stuff or his sense of humour. He ends up swimming a couple of lengths and he’s moderately chuffed but my heart caves in completely and I’m pretty sure I’m crossing the invisible line of parental decorum and I’m furious at me for not seeing this coming. For not preparing him better for the busy and the blur and the noise and all things new and confusing.
At home out of the heat I dissect the day. Starting with me. I sit myself down for a scolding because I need to say some truth to me. You, I tell myself,
Do. Not. React.
Victims react. They lash out livid and all it screams is desperate and afraid. And you’re not a victim. You’re an overcomer.
Do not react, because you chose the continent, the country, the city and the school for this kid. You know that every choice involves a sacrifice. You could have made different choices. Don’t get mad at reality or those who are part of it for what you decided – which was, to put your VI kid in this amazing school. Even for kids with perfect vision, mainstream schooling comes with hurdles and hurts. But it also comes with the matchless, vibrant wealth of textured experience. You could have chosen different – you could have chosen easy – but you believed the sacrifices would be worth it. So, um, do not react.
Do not react, because it’s probably not as bad as you think. The other parents probably didn’t notice your emotional implosion – the folding of hope. If they did? They probably know they would have felt and done the same if it was their kid. And if they roll their eyes thinking you’re That Mother? Well. I guess you can be ok with that too.
Do not react, because you know it’s stupid to make the call or send the mail before you’re calm and kind again. Process. Bide your time. Clutch wisdom. But –
Do. Not. React.
React in prayer and positive, practical wisdom. React by teaching your child that he can’t do much to make others more patient or perceptive, more considerate or observant, but he can work on the insides of him. He can become the kind of person the world needs more of because as John Whitehead said, ‘Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.’ React by helping him reach out to others in a way that inspires reciprocation. React by going for his heart – every time – because a changed heart reacts in changed behaviour.
React with discernment. Judge others on their good intentions. Be kind. Judge yourself on your actions. Be courageous.
React on the run. You can’t predict life. You can take all the right advice – make all the right rules and routines – but still only God knows what’s coming. Try to be ready for, well, anything. And don’t think you’ll get a break from this parenting gig. Find your groove and don’t break your pace. Kids won’t wait for you to catch your breath. They won’t stop growing and changing and learning and asking. Settle this: that you are going to have to make sense of the pain right there in the rhythm and the real of life.
I think about how Cam can’t see the end of the pool but he swims and swims ‘til the wall stops him up close and personal. He Just Keeps Swimming and he’s not finding Nemo he’s finding new waters, new mercies, and shouldn’t that be my daily reaction? Because I can’t see the end but there is grace enough to swim, and swim some more.
. . .
P.S. – If you’re a regular around here – THANK YOU for loving on Dragons and Dirt: The truth about changing the world – and the courage it requires. *Bring on the second print run! Woo hoo!*
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Photo credit: K. Stokker