If you have kids of an age to comprehend, on some level, what is going on in our nation, you know how it adds an extra degree of complexity to the processing. You don’t have the luxury of just feeling your emotions, whatever they may be, and displaying them without thought. My son, 7.5, has been thrashing all week. I wish I could say that he spent that first day signing petitions and committing random acts of kindness. While he has asked a lot of good questions, his main reaction has been one of angst and he has acted out a lot, pushing all of the boundaries and being very aggressive.
My own first instinct is to “batten down the hatches” – no more TV, thank you very much. Nerf guns, in the goodwill basket. Playdates with that rude kid down the street, forget about it.
And some of these might be necessary. But as we both thrash our way through finding an authentic and effective way of responding, I realize that consequences aren’t going to highlight any of the right things. What we need right now is connection.
I’ve been craving more mindfulness as a mother lately as it is – being pregnant and getting closer to my due date comes with so many uncertainties, not the least of which is knowing that my relationship with my son is about to change forever, no matter how intentional I am. I do not know what it will look like; I cannot know. And while we have been very connected during this pregnancy, lately I feel his drifting interest in the novelty of this change, and my shift to focusing on preparation for her arrival. We cannot always see each other.
Then, this last week – it feels like a hurtling, like something viral, out of control. We feel divided, sometimes within our own homes or inner circles, and it is painful. We can’t always see the good in others. I have struggled to see the good in my own son amidst calls from school and conversations slipping towards fear and anger. Who we are in a time like this, especially for children, starts at home. How do we come together as a family?
I watch his wanton strafe-bombing of citizens in another lego war of epic proportions. I want to tell him that this is not how humans grow and find peace. We have had these conversations before, but this week it feels like too much. I want him to see, to get it. I want him to piece it all together.
He learns and connects with his hands. I know this. I am reminded when his nanny mentions something his teacher said this last week, how he learns through his body, how we can work with that. I am easily disconnected from my body, one of the reasons I’ve been craving more mindfulness lately, and also why I so often forget who he is and how to connect with him. It has always been a struggle for me to get down on the ground with him, to use my hands alongside his. But I know the life we both find in this together when we do; how connected we become. How much more we both see.
He is working it all out in the legos, his own language that no one else is bothering to learn. His hands have a lot to say, but no one is listening.
I want to listen.
On my way home from some appointments I stop at the toy store. I buy a puzzle. That night, after dinner, I surprise him. We begin this puzzle together, learning something new with our hands together. Compromise, cooperation, patience. Feeling the momentum of progress as the borders come together, then the castle, waiting, waiting for the dragon to take shape.
We take up knitting. He’s been learning at school but doesn’t know how to keep adding rows, and I can’t remember. We watch YouTube videos together, getting so frustrated but reminding each other equally that everything takes practice. Magically, we both get it. We take turns, talking about all the things we’ll make for baby sister, how we can stop wasting money and make all our own clothes and christmas presents, how it’s so strange that more people can’t knit. Does Uncle Johnny know how to knit?
Our hands bring us back to each other, back away from the edge of anger and despair. We don’t need many words to explain ourselves to each other, to see each other. What we ask of each other is readily given. Lego wars and Facebook feeds become pleasantly distant.
He invites me into “family time” for the first time ever. “Family time” is part of the bedtime routine he and Chase have where they role play with his stuffed animals, each having it’s own character. He has always been hesitant to let me participate. Now, he asks, not me. He is expansive and generous – I can do whatever voices I want for the animals, he says. He roars with laughter at the questionable east coast accent I affect for Giraffe, and tells me some of his secrets.
We bake, we play games, we snuggle extra hard. We use our hands every way we can think of, finding and demonstrating peace, connection. Here at home, where it always starts. The conversations move towards hope.
This mindful connection we are creating with each other brings me great comfort. It extends into other parts of my world, sometimes resembling routine, sometimes spaciousness. Listening to my body again, adding new layers I haven’t experienced before. Holding the events of the last week with less fear. Seeing so much more of each other.
Healing just takes connection.
We are all tired. We are angry. We are confused, trying to sort through the myriad responses to what is happening in our nation and land on what feels the best, what feels right. Where do we go from here? Who do we become, what do we fight for?
The truth is I really have no idea. I have no idea where to put my energy. I have no idea how to really show up for the world right now, how to engage the children so that this time matters, isn’t forgotten. But if we want to help heal the world, we might have to help heal each other first.