I had originally planned to write about yelling -- specifically about not yelling. The idea came after I read something yesterday about that very topic. And it spurred me – a yeller of moderate volume and frequency – to want to try not yelling. But the truth is that I’m going to need some time to really digest the information, to figure out my strategies and whether or not they’re effective. Otherwise I’d just be saying – “Hey, I’m going to try not to yell when I get frustrated with my children. How about you?” And that’s just not very interestingJ
So once I knew what I wasn’t going to write about, I needed to figure out what I was going to write about. And then I took Sunshine and Pinky to swim lessons and it landed right in my lap. Or more accurately, it sat right next to me.
These are weekday morning swim lessons for the three to five-year-old set. Most of the kids are closer to three than five. To start off the lesson, the kids all gather in a circle, put a hand in and say something silly (today it was “hotdog”) to get them started off happy and laughing. There were about ten kids in the circle and one mom. Last week – and the week before – that mom was me. Initially, Pinky was none too sure that swim lessons were something she wanted to do (happily, that has changed). Today’s circle mom stood there with her little boy's hand resting on her leg. It was a sweet picture of a little person simply needing the touch of the person he loves most in order to feel more secure.
Then the kids hopped into the pool and the mom came to sit back down. She immediately huffed an irritated breath (and trust me I’ve huffed that same huff myself under different circumstances) and said, “His shyness drives me crazy.” She then spent the next 30 minutes off and on discussing how much her son’s shyness irritates her and makes her life difficult, etc. How she doesn’t understand why he’s shy because she isn’t and neither is her husband. It went on from there.
Now nothing about this woman indicated that she’s a mean person or an uncaring mother. She was there, she went to stand in the circle when he needed her, she greeted him with a “good job” and a warm towel when the lesson was through. But what she wasn’t giving him was what I feel is the single most important, most irreplaceable gift a mother can give her child.
She does not accept her son for who he is. From our brief conversation, she made it clear that her son is not who she wants him to be and that bothers her. A lot. And her attitude toward her child – her adorable, smiling, chubby cheeked little man – bothered me. A lot.
Professor Bean happens to be a shy guy. He was a shy infant, toddler and preschooler. He has positively blossomed in kindergarten and is a confident learner and enthusiastic playground participant. He has many friends and is really just one of the guys. He and I have worked very hard to build confidence and comfort and there has been tremendous growth. His former unwillingness or inability to try new things, new places, new people has turned into curiosity about all and a hunger to dive right in and give things a shot. This makes my heart soar. But not because I was ever for one minute unhappy with or dissatisfied with who he is. Rather I’m thrilled that he is not holding himself back from experiences he’ll enjoy.
There are many, many things I screw up as a mom on an almost daily basis (see reference to yelling above and earlier post about patienceJ) But there is one thing I think I do pretty well. And that is acceptance. I accept each of my three very different beans for who they are. And for what each of them is. A gift. Exactly as they are. A gift.
A child may not turn out to be exactly what a mother envisioned when that baby was safely cocooned in her womb. But if she opens her eyes and her heart, offering pure unconditional love and acceptance, she might find that who her child truly is blows that imagined version out of the water.
I shudder to think what it does to the most secret, vulnerable inner corners of a child to know that his mother – the one person he should be able to count on to be on his team no matter what - doesn’t accept who he is. Because kids are smart. They’ll know.