Friday, April 27, 2012

stepping to the side

it didn't help that william didn't want to go to school today.

he doesn't want to go to school most days these days (but then he doesn't want to leave when it comes time to go home).  as we were talking about it this morning i asked, "do you have a good time while you're there?" 

"i don't. but you think i do." 

oh... my little guy.  i'm letting you down.  i don't know how to make it better for you.  this is only the beginning of the part where i feel inadequate and you ultimately have to find the answers... your inner strength to be a brave kid...  

i buy him a mini tour bus in the toy section of the grocery store.  not as a substitute for my guilt but because i want him to have a little symbol of his bravery this morning.  but i can already hear him saying, "i wasn't brave.  but you thought i was."  and how is a toy, no matter how small, going to help him find something within himself?  so maybe i do buy it to ameliorate my guilt.  

this is how it went.  we rode to school.  he sat outside the building.  he didn't want to go inside.  that is new.

"come inside so you can say goodbye to henry." 

he does.

henry's teacher tells me, "there is a trip planned to copenhagen today.  henry was going to stay here, but there are a lot of absent kids so now everyone will go."  

hey! that's exciting!  

"and i think you're going too william."  

hey! even better!  william seems okay with this.  we don't know... is he going?  we didn't hear about a trip to copenhagen.  as we walk to his classroom, all of the children are sitting, lined up against the wall, in coats and boots, with backpacks on.  it is loud and the teacher is taking count, matching up partners... generally preoccupied with getting 20 some children ready to take a bus to the biggest city in this small country.  

"i'm sorry," i say to her, when she sees us.  "i didn't know there was a field trip today (no signed permission slips here. no $10 contribution. and apparently, no build up).  i don't have his backpack or water bottle."  (something i'd learned from my initial meeting with them, to bring on days he has field trips.)  

a response something along of the lines of 'when i finish this, i will find something for him.'  

as the children start to line up, william is holding on to my hand now with both of his.  not a good sign for an easy goodbye.  

and now outside, william is not letting me go.  "how about i walk with you to the bus and we'll say goodbye there?"  okay, that works for everyone.  we walk a block to the waiting bus.  "wow! it's a fancy tour bus!" i say, trying to get him excited.  but he is not excited.  he is holding onto me now, saying "no, mama! no!" and then yelling it as i say, 'goodbye, i love you, and you will have so much fun' and his teacher is carrying him onto the bus, and as he's carried to his seat, he is yelling and crying and shaking his head no at me through the window, looking desperately at me, like maybe i'm putting him up for adoption... which i know i'm not.  and i know he knows i'm not.  still though, it hurts when that invisible tether between you and your child gets tugged so much.  but i smile and wave and nod my head yes, as though he were doing the same, and then walk away, wondering if he will ever forgive me and i buy him his little badge of bravery, or my little guilt reducer.  i come home.  take out 'the parent's tao te ching' to find some passage that will put it all right in my mind. 

i find this: 

to survive as a parent
you must empty yourself 
of your constant thinking, 
planning, and worrying.  

and this... 

there are certainly times when we should guide.
we naturally want to protect our children,
and teach them what we have learned.
but it is best when we let that guidance 
be as unobtrusive,
and gentle as possible.
forcing lessons on our children
may get the immediate results we want.
but our children may be left without discernment,
unable to build internal strength of character.
what are your children in the midst of learning
are you in the way? 

so, let's consider this me trying to empty myself of my constant worry.  stepping out of the way... or trying to.  i won't tell william he was brave this day because he probably didn't feel very brave, and if he did, he can tell me himself if he wants to.  i need to keep him fed, safe, and loved, and then i need to respect that even as a four year old, he knows how to get through a day. 

even as a 3 year old.


nina said...

Beautiful post.

An old, old book that helped me parent was Liberated parents, Liberated Children by Faber and Mazlish. It completely changed the way I conceptualized my role as a parent.

And BTW, I, too, had a child who did not want to be away from home. Familiar stuff.

greg|regan said...

Thanks Nina.

I looked up the book and am intrigued. And curious about how the authors or Dr. Ginott would have suggested I approach things yesterday! Thanks for the recommendation!

Kate said...

You are such a good mama Regan.

nina said...

One quick insight (from their book) -- it is not your role to stop the tears, but to let him know that you understand and then to help him find ways of coping.

Once I learned that I did not have to arrest the crying, but, instead, I merely had to communicate that I understood his/her fear/anger/despair, the world of parenting changed for me.

greg|regan said...

thanks kate. you are too!

yes, nina. i'm glad to hear that. we have been doing a lot of validating of sadness and fear as he adjusts to his new world. and friday it finally hit home that i'm not necessarily responsible for his happiness... as much as i want him to be a happy boy.