There was a big thud at the bottom of the playground slide.
“You better watch out! You could have been killed,” the boy yells at Jack, who had been playing at the bottom of the slide.
“I couldn’t be killed. I was picking up rocks,” Jack says to the older one, standing so they are now looking at each other eye to eye.
“How old are you even anyway?”
Jack holds his arms up in the air, outstretched as far as they can go. “I am a big boy. This big,” he confidently says.
“You are not a big boy. I am bigger. I am five,” the boy laughs at Jack. As he watches the older boy run away to play with older kids, I can see the confusion and hurt on Jack’s face.
Later in that week, I told Jack that he was a big boy because he had done something on his own, all by himself, like a big boy. Jack said, “I’m not a big boy. I am just a little boy and I can’t do anything.” Ugh. I assumed he was remembering the interaction at the playground from earlier.
Jack started his last year of Mother’s Day Out this week. We have to figure out what to do with him next. He could start pre-K and go to school five days a week. I could look for another program that is only two or three days a week. Or he could just stay at home with me.
I know it is important for him to go to school and learn so he is ready for kindergarten, but I love being at home with him a few days a week. I feel like once he starts school, its over. No more late morning cuddles or staying at home with me just because. He will be unprotected and out in the big wide world without me right next to him.
Parenting is hard. What is incomprehensible until you get one of these snotty, sticky little ones is that the added daily responsibility and loss of sleep is a cake walk. The real heat comes when you see all of your fears, doubts, uncertainties and even nightmares come to life right in front of your eyes, and you have to watch these scenarios play out in the lives of these squishy loveys who you only want to cover with an invisible blanket that keeps them safe and happy forever.
I am working on sitting. The goal is to be a better parent by learning how to just sit with my kids in what is happening around and to them instead of fixing or controlling anything. The exchange Jack had with the little boy on the playground about picking up rocks around the slide was months ago, but I think about often. I didn’t get involved that day, but, man, I wanted to.
If all we want is to feel seen, heard or valued, then it does no good for me to swoop in and rescue him out of these situations. Good grief, it is hard to sit on my hands and not take over. Most of the time, the only progress I am making in this self-education is just simply realizing that I am taking over again and backtracking my way out of solving his problems for him.
I was reminded of this by Glennon Doyle from her book “Love Warrior” when she posted on Instagram this week:
“We think that our job as humans is to avoid pain, our job as parents is to protect our children from pain, and our job as friends is to fix each other’s pain. Maybe that’s why we all feel like failures so often—because we all have the wrong job description of love. People who are hurting don’t need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving witnesses. People who sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in the helpless vigil to our pain.”
Ben tells me that I can’t take on everything for our kids. He knows it is my default. Because of this default, he is well aware of how stifling it can be to feel like you aren’t trusted to make your own sound decisions because lots of times he is on the receiving end of my “help.” I don’t want my kids to feel stifled or unable to think on their own. I want them to be independent, confident adults who can handle bad news, bad people, bad days and bad hands dealt to them.
I need to be ready for what is coming as Ellie grows and navigates society. All I want to do is make things easier for her as she grows. I want to make everything easier for our whole family. I want to be there to tell people how she is so much more than the trademark facial features and delays that come with Down syndrome. I want to be there to answer questions from Jack’s friends. I want to have the right words and protect them when my babies inevitably hear hurtful words that will be used to describe their sister.
But, I can’t do that. I can’t be everywhere and I can’t make them wear earplugs when we are out in public. I will not be able to control what they see and hear, and I will not be able to control how they react to it. The only thing I can control is how I react.