3 Lessons Learned From A Four Year Old
When It All Falls Down
A few years ago, when my husband and I were going through our marital woes which included a separation, I was filled with anger, despair, a loss of control and sadness. I remember spending my days in a haze trying to fight back tears while at work and then crying myself to sleep while asking God for deliverance from the situation. I would pray constantly for him to fix it, to bring us back together, just please do something. So he did. A little over a month into our separation, surprise, surprise, we found out that we were going to be parents. Granted this was by no means the response I was expecting or had even remotely crossed my mind, but it was definitely what we needed along with a few lessons learned along the way, particularly me.
As we began to wrap our minds about this new development in our broken, tattered relationship (it took 4 digital with the word pregnant spelled out pregnancy tests and a doctor’s visit to sink in), I still didn’t know where this would take us. While he was less than thrilled, at the sound of our little person’s heartbeat at the confirmation appointment, I knew this was happening. We were going to be parents, whether we up for the job or not. Parenthood was going to be our new normal. How it was going to look, was a whole other story.
We hadn’t been communicating very well. Hell we had hardly been communicating at all. Between us both shutting down in our own way (him trying to fixing it on his own without me and me simply turning inward), our relationship was on heading into a slow, painful downward spiral. In the rare moments words were spoken about the underlying problems, neither one of us was really being heard. Nobody was listening but there was definitely a lot of finger pointing. That was us for years until he couldn’t take it anymore. He had decided that we should each go our separate ways at least temporarily, but I knew where this was going to lead. We had finally hit rock bottom. But with the news of a little person soon to be joining our clique, it changed the trajectory of our relationship. It was no longer about us as a couple, but one as a potential intact family unit.
We decided to stick it out. Now I know people always say, you should never stay together for the kids. But truth be told, we needed to because without him, we would never have taken a long hard look at our relationship. Slowly, we began the process of trying to mend something that had seemed beyond repair. It was awkward, uncharted territory. We didn’t seek counseling right away (although we should have and it did come later), we simply trying to open the lines of communication. The unborn child that was being carefully knitted within me had already began to change who were, what we did, how we talked WITH one another even before he was physically here. He was forcing us to talk about our issues and start working together instead of against the grain.
Fast forward five years and our lives have been turned upside down by a little, almost 4 foot ninja. Yes I mean ninja. The shenanigans that boy has managed to get into over the last couple of weeks while we have been asleep without making a sound has been astonishing AND scary.
With his presence in our lives, the reflection of who I am has never been made more clear than it is right now. But it also has been very sobering as well. I’ll admit, I’m more than a bit selfish, have never really been affectionate (kind of hated it for most of my adult years except the hugs given as greetings), showed my “love” for you in the form of a gift. But you can only sustain a relationship for so long using the aforementioned traits before eventually it breaks down. Sadly, I can already see how being me is affecting our mother son relationship.
Just A Few Minutes Of Your Time Can Mean All The World To Them
This mothering business has me feeling all kinds of awkward. I honestly don’t really know how to interact with my son most of the time outside of running errands and trips to the gym. We’ve been doing it since day one and its easy. I don’t have to think. I simply just do. But having a conversation with him? I’m at a lost for words. Or playing pretend? My mind drifts to the 50 other things I need to or could be doing. I’ve worked all day, talking for most of that time and simply want quiet. But that’s not what he wants or needs at the end of his day. So I try to listen. I try to ask questions. I mean what do you ask a 4 year old? But mostly I try to give him the floor to talk. At the end of the day when its time for bed and he asks, “Mommy can you lay down in my bed for a few minutes?”, I usually oblige him. But when I don’t, his little world seems crushed and I feel guilty. That typically happens when he’s done the most since being picked up from school and I’m counting down the minutes until he’s in bed. But when he asks again the next time, I’m thankful for the chance to get it right again.
Watch Your Tone
Since my husband and I have been together, we’ve made it a point to speak to each respectfully even when wanted to head butt the other over an issue. For the most part we’ve stuck to that over nearly 10 years of marriage with an exception of a handful of times. We usually shut shut it down before it got real disrespectful. But with my son, it has been a different story. I am so quick to yell or use an insinuating tone when I suspect he has done something he shouldn’t have that getting the truth or even an answer usually results in a no response which in turn frustrates me more. I then explode and send him to his room. While my husband and I use corporal punishment as a last resort, we make a conscious effort to not use it when angry. But I swear sometimes, I think Jesus just wants to call him home sooner than expected. But I hold my mule and let him make it another day. I’m forced to look back on our interaction and think about how I could have made it go better. At the end of the day, I want him to understand what the issue was, why, what needs to happen moving forward and the consequences. That means quieter yet firm tones filled with compassion even when you don’t feel like giving it. Its when they need it the most.
Hugs, Kisses, Hi-Fives! Oh My!!
I’ve never really been one for affection. Kissing was out the window and occasional hand holding was cool. But the customary hug as a greeting among friends was and still is acceptable. I’ve gotten better through the years but it’s still sometimes a struggle. My little person, on the other hand, will hug, kiss, high five, snuggle up under you with no qualms about it at any given moment. In fact, a high five, fist bump, finger, then thumb followed by a kiss on the forehead are a requirement at bedtime, before leaving from dropping him off at school or the kid’s club at the gym. And you know what? I happily give it. And if we miss one step, he will quickly remind you to get your life right and finish the sequence correctly. But since having him, I’ve given more hugs and kisses than I think my entire life! Given the fact that I grew up with minor showings of affection here and there (nothing against my parents, they only did what they learned growing up), I’m thankful that this little boy causes me to give it freely and willingly. Though he’s beginning to get too big to carry, I still do it occasionally because the feel of his little hands and arms wrapped around my neck reassure me that I’m doing something right even if not all the time. Thank God for that!!
School Is Still In Session
My little boy, the person I’ve named my business after, has become in his short time here on earth, one of my greatest teachers. He has no need to tell me when I’m wrong (although he will do it), his eyes and actions speak loud enough. But the requests to lay down with him for a few minutes or when he crawls in my lap to watch a movie also serve as reminders, that maybe I’m not doing such a terrible job at this parenting thing. I’m not great, but I’m still learning. Maybe, just maybe I’ll eventually pass with flying colors.