Monday, April 18, 2016

Building depth

Being a distance parent is hard. Being a parent is hard. You give a lot but you get a lot, too.  You grow a lot. You learn a lot.

I think the biggest universal thing you learn as a parent is how to love deeper; and for me, that is a journey my son leads. He shows me the ways he is beautiful. He shows me his heart. His mind. His love. When he is testing me and pushing me, as all kids do, I have to learn to love deeper in another way.  And, it's those moments where he shows me the ways he is beautiful, his heart, his mind, his love, that I hold on to in learning to love deeper that way.   

In some ways, I think one of my most important practices is to learn to see the pushing and testing as opportunities to respond with more of an open-heart, through earning to empathize with where he is when he is pushing and testing.  To me, this means, stepping back from the pushing and testing and holding the space for him to feel it.  Because, if I want him to share with me what he is feeling when he is struggling, I need to create a space for him to fully feel without judgement, criticism or shame.  Just love.  Holding the space for him to explore those emotions in a healthy way. And, in holding the space, teaching him how to rethink things to maybe feel better.

My son was upset tonight.  He did something to ground himself to his room for a few weeks and feels angry about that.  I didn’t push him when he didn’t want to tell me why he got in such big trouble and I realized during the conversation, that was ok.  My job as his mom, who lives far away right now, is to hear him.  Is to support him.  Is to show him how much I love him.  

So, instead of talking about what he did wrong, we talked about things that made him happy.  Things that made him feel good.  We talked about our cat.  The one we, with my brother, picked out on his last visit in February.  And, what he said, astounded me.  Not because it was something that I was surprised by, but because it was one of those moments that I could feel how deeply I loved him. It felt like an effortless love in that moment, something so rooted. As it is.

We were face-timing and the cat was snuggling my face.  Our cat, Lynx, is a really affectionate, loving cat. He just wants to snuggle all day.  And I said that'; that Lynx would just snuggle all day.. A big smile crossed my son’s face, and I asked, “What?”

His smile was loving and sweet. “See, you have someone to keep you from getting lonely, now.” 

My son has wanted me to get a dog or a cat for years because I’ve lived alone for as long as he can remember.  He’s been worried, since he was five years old, that I would be lonely.  He lives with four brothers, two cats, two dogs and chickens.   So, I knew what he meant, I knew where this was coming from and it warmed my heart.

I said, “Yes! And you helped me pick him out.” He smiled again, saying, “I knew just the right cat that would make you happy.”

That dropped me into such a beautiful place. Of love and connection.  And, I said, “Yes, babe, you did.  You really did.”

Looking at me with a deep kindness, he said, “You notice how I didn’t say thing?”
I paused for a second, astounded again, realizing what he was referring to. “Yes, I do. Because he’s not a thing, he’s family.”

“Exactly,” he said pausing a moment. “Yep.”

We’ve come a long way, him and me. I used to struggle with being far away when he was struggling, in whatever way.  I used to not be able to hold the space, I used to need to know more because I was struggling with not being there. 

But, holding the space is for him and me.  It teaches him and it grows me.  My son is such an integral part of my, everything.  And how things have unfolded, although very difficult and full of heartbreak, have also been full of growth. And love. And learning.

And, in holding the space, I gave him a gift and he gave me a gift.  Both created out of love.

Grateful for today; not all connections with my son are this nourishing. And that’s hard when I’m far away. But today nourished me and I'm going to sleep happy. 

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