One of the worst fears as a parent we all probably share is how to keep our children safe from harm. We spend countless hours worrying about sickness, physical/metal/emotional harm, appointments, bullying, school, and much more befalling our children. We run around doing for our kids, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and baths; sometimes we even forget to take time out for us. With the million and one items on our checklist of to do's and worrying, it is no wonder we forget to take time out to enjoy the little things.
We lived in Louisiana, in the deep, deep south. Copperheads reared themselves at every opportunity. At one time, the farmers' bulls escaped ensuring, everyone stayed safe and locked up in our homes until the sheriff let us know the coast was clear. I won't even get into the alligator farm the bank seized, leaving the alligators to fend for themselves. Needless to say, Louisiana was rich with culture and wildlife, but I worried non-stop about things that could harm my son.
I'll never forget the day Chris taught me something about the "little things" in life. This was also the day I realized just how much of a "parent" I had become. Our two-mile driveway was made from rock and stone with a natural pond that overflowed every time it rained. Outside, Chris was jumping in and out of puddles. I found such enjoyment watching him, considering not much amused my three year old. I followed him back and forth, with less than a foot spacing between us. After an hour of this, my nerves were shot. I felt like I said Chris, please don't do....or Chris, be careful so much so, if that was a song on the radio, it would have been played out.
At one point, he looked up at me with his big, brown eyes and said, "ma, drop". I squinted my eyes, as if that helps clarify what he is saying or helps me to hear better. He got the hint and again said, "ma drop", but this time pointed to the ground. "Oh, you mean jump. Is that what you are trying to say, you want mommy to jump?" He smiled ear to ear and shook his head yes. Here, is where I realized, I was officially a parent. In my mind, I'm saying to myself, no way. Who knows what's in that water. Knowing my luck, I would jump, cut my foot, bacteria would devour it, have a visit to the hospital, and be off my feet for a week. Yeah, nope. I bent down towards Chris, grabbed his little hands softly, and said, "I'm sorry, buddy, but mommy can't do it. I don't even want you to because I don't want you to get hurt. But, you are having so much fun and mommy wants you to be happy".
Chris looked down at the ground and his jump didn't have as much pep. I had never felt so bad as a parent until that day. I bent down again to ask him what was wrong. When Chris was upset, he would get distant or mad. This, was one of those times. As usual, my mind raced with thoughts, one stood out like a big, blinking neon sign. Just jump you fool! You used to jump off buildings into pools as a kid, but you can't jump barefoot in a puddle. Wham. I had just hit a brick wall of enlightenment. Here, my son wanted to play and all I could think was protecting him and myself from harm. He took it as I didn't want to play with him and I.....well, I was being a dumb parent.
We played even when the rain came. After baths, dinner, and bed, the house fell silent again. In the country, when things are silent, there is almost a loneliness that befalls like a blanket softly falling over you. The term, you can hear a pin drop, doesn't quite describe it. I was left to my thoughts and began rehashing the day in my mind. I realized that all my son wanted me to do was enter his world. He wanted to feel accepted and understood. All he needed, was for me to jump in those puddles to feel all those wonderful things. It was the smallest thing to do, compared to the everyday life battles and hurdles. I was happy that I entered Chris's world. I cringed then and still do, thinking that I almost didn't because of all the "possible harm".
I know how hard it is to forget to enjoy the little moments. We have so many little and big things on our minds: trying to have our children adjust to certain social norms, how can we teach our child this, or all the don't, no, wait, in a second, but that could hurt you; we are blinded by all those things and don't see it through their eyes. I cannot stress enough the importance of entering their world. No matter how crazy, off the beaten path, or stressful it may seem, later ...your child will be ever thankful for it. One day, your child will let you know that is the reason they have grown so much.
Chris, at nine years old, let me know today. Driving in the car, I asked him, "do you feel I understand you?". He shook his head yes. "O.K., next question. Do you feel accepted by me?" He shook his head yes, again. Those weren't the moments. It happened after we got home. Piling out of the car, he gives me a hug. He says, "mom, you know that when I say I hate you, I really don't. I mean.. I'm mad. It's usually because you tell me, no. I get it, though." I teared up then and even now, while writing this. Going into his world allowed him to blossom in mine.
Yes, we are parents. No, it is not good to be just a friend to your child. YES, it is imperative to enter their world first before pointing out all the things they need to change or think about. Could you explain what chocolate ice cream tastes like, never having it before? So, how can you explain to your child the in's and out's of the world, if you don't know how they view it?
A mother of a special need child and advocate for all!