Before anyone jumps to attack mode at the title of this post…I’d like to ask you to at least read through. Parenting is HARD and figuring out how to handle situations – especially with your first – can be a challenge. We navigate new waters each day and I pray that we make decisions that don’t damage our kids as we move through.
Having said that, I caught myself in a trend just yesterday, that sat with me and kept me up all night. This morning, I couldn’t stop dwelling on it. Usually, that is a sure sign that I need to course correct in one way or another.
Let me give a little background information: my first child, is not the easiest child in the world. He is “gifted” according to the testing he’s been through. He thinks way ahead of the way we do and falls into the “manipulative” category according to those same tests. Emotional maturity tends to lag pretty far behind that. He also sees things in black and white: as right and wrong… and he has a strong sense of justice to back that up. Oh… let’s also add in the fact that he took the competitive genes that John and I seem to come by naturally and upped them by a couple thousand percent. In some ways, this is the perfect storm. Today? It makes him a little harder to understand, and makes friendships a little harder to hang on to. Someday though? I think it could work to his advantage. I pray that’s the case every day.
But here’s the thing – my love for him is GREAT. He’s the one that made me a “mama.” He challenges me as hard as he loves me. What others see? It’s not what I see. My heart melts from his smile. I see the way he watches over his newest brother and younger siblings and everything feels right. I see his potential.
Sometimes, we face some difficult situations. See – other parents, teachers and kids aren’t programmed to love him fiercely like we are. They see the meltdowns. They hear the words that come out. They see only one side of situations that are very often two-sided because his natural tendency is to fight… and to fight hard. I’m guessing a lot of you have a child in your life just like him. And I’m guessing when the storm blows through you’re left wondering what to do at best, and frustrated beyond belief at worse. I get it… I live it!
My tendency when this happens in public… is to try to negate the negatives. I’m a peacemaker. It’s in my DNA. I learned from a young age that the best way to handle a difficult situation is to throw a very serious “I’m sorry” (that I mean with my whole heart) out there to try to diffuse what seems to be going terribly wrong. I’m programmed this way the same way my oldest is to fight until no one else has any fight left in them.
After I diffuse the situation, I try to move on. But, I often find myself dwelling on the pieces left in the wake of whatever situation took place. Then suddenly, a light bulb turned on for me. I’m dwelling because my approach – while designed to facilitate quick piece – has a major downfall. My son – who has blown everyone out of his corner by his reaction – sees his own mom jump out of his corner at all. By quickly apologizing FOR him, I look like I’m taking the other side. He feels alone, because his 8-year-old brain that’s in full-on fight mode, can’t see it any other way. My need to “fix” things, for appearance sake is betraying the one that I should be listening to and molding accordingly.
Unfortunately, the listening can’t happen in that moment. He needs to calm down to be able to come close to explaining what happened in a way that I can understand and work with. But, when I jump to a public apology, he doesn’t have a reason to open up to me in that way. His ability to be vulnerable dissipates as the words leave my mouth.
Is an apology necessary? In almost every one of these situations, the answer is yes. But, it needs to be sincere… and sometimes that means some time and serious thought. Also in most cases, it needs to come from him, the one involved in the first place.
Can I apologize? Yes. But should it be my first, knee jerk reaction? Probably not.
When I make the first move, threaten him to participate in the same, and pull him out of the situation, I’m fighting against him. Don’t get me wrong – many of these times he needs removed from the situation for the emotional benefit of everyone involved. But, after that? My job is to comfort. To listen. To go through the reaction that took place. Talk about how we could have handled it better. Ask how he can remedy the situation. Pray with him. Then talk together about how we make it right, as a team, because that’s what we are. We are a team. It’s my job to fight FOR my child and his black and white view of the world because no one else will.
I love him to the deepest part of my heart. But, when I betray what my child needs in the moment he needs it, he feels slighted. He might not be able to voice his frustrations in the most mature way yet. He might not react the way standards dictate he should…but my reaction should come from what he needs most, not what I need to keep up appearances.
This is new territory to me, but I’m committed. I feel convicted in this area and haven’t been able to shake it. So this morning, after a tornado blew through yesterday, I sat down with my son and we came up with a game plan. We talked. I listened. The anger and hurt had time to pass. Did it fix everything? Nope. But, I think it started us down the right path, the path toward remediation. I’m hoping that perhaps this helps us move forward with a little more grace and a little less frustration as we grow together. He owes a few apologies, that’s for sure. They’re going to be hard for him, but, more authentic than they would have been when I felt they were due. Some relationships might need a little extra rebuilding for awhile, and he knows it now. But the knee jerk apologies that come from my needing to make things right in the moment? I’m working on doing away with them.
I hope those closest to me understand. I hope they see a Mom fighting for her son. But, whether they do or don’t, I KNOW he will… and right now? That’s what this guy’s heart needs most. I’m. All. In.