This one was untitled, because I couldn’t bring myself to write down what I think it should be called. Because this post is about not liking one of my kids.
Gasp. I can’t breathe. I feel like I shouldn’t admit that to myself, let alone write it down and then post it!
I see and hear others gush about their lovely, smiling offspring. It’s not just others—my FB page is full of admiration for all my kidlets. Here’s a recent pic of them.
But, this morning, and for several days now, one of those cherubic smiles was missing. And, I was biting my tongue (really hard) to keep from nagging them, wishing for the clock to speed up so it would be time for them to head off to school. (Yes, the kids are attending local school while we’re in our little, Spanish village. That makes me sooo happy. Especially today!)
My irritation has been building with this child. I’ve not been enjoying time with them, mostly due to their lighting-speed launch from ‘normal’ to ANGRY. And, for being unkind to my other kidlets. Dreamboat and I have talked about what to do to make it stop. And our frustation. And our sadness.
I was just about to pull back a little emotionally, to allow some space between us, to try and hide from them how taxing I find time together. Because of course, that always works. Right? Because when someone pulls away from me, without explanation, it always helps the situation improve. Right?
Then I read my little one’s letter home to a friend.
And my heart broke.
This tender child wrote that they’re lonely. Missing their friends. Struggling. Lost.
As I myself wrote just this week, “the people that are the strongest are usually the most sensitive.” The strength of my little one’s anger, is an attempt at a self-protective shield from the pain they’re feeling. I know that.
Or, I should have known that.
And, I know from friends telling me of their kids’ reactions to culture shock, and the many books I’ve read on the subject, that anger is one of the main responses to being in a new environment. It’s natural, normal, and healthy.
I knew that too. At least it my head.
This emotional reaction will help my kiddo work through their unease of being new, different, uncomfortable. They need to work through the pain and privilege of currently inhabiting both a local home, and a new, foreign ‘home’. To maintain their friendships and identity in their local home, but to establish new friendships and identity in their new, temporary home. Their reaction is a reminder of how important that work is, and what is at stake. And what they can gain from working through it.
What wonderful people, and friends, they will become if they can learn to overcome their feelings of unease, but remember what it’s like to be new. To be the foreigner. And to reach out to others, throughout their lives, who are also new and in need of friendship and support.
I should have been there, offering the support and understanding they need, drawing us closer. Pointing out gently the process they going through. Instead of taking the coward’s way out. Instead of withdrawing.
Yet here I was, about to distance myself from this child who needs me most. I wasn’t looking beyond the emotion, to see the root of the issue. To look for understanding. Instead, I allowed my buttons to get pushed (which my children are so very well-skilled at finding). I lost my clarity, blurred into oblivion behind my own emotional reaction.
I share this today, hoping you will avoid the mistakes I’m making, not only if you have kids, but with friends. With parents. With spouses. With partners.
Be bigger than me.
Be the gracious and understanding person I wish I’d been. Don’t withdraw. Don’t cause more pain.
If only I had said, “Sweetheart, you don’t seem yourself. Is something bothering you? Are you finding it difficult to settle in here? Would you like a date with me to have some special time together?” I wish I had immeditely offered additional encouragement, supporting them while they figure out how to adapt and get their equilibrium back.
The good news is that I’ve not blown it completely. I have a chance to make it right.
And guess what?
I’m off to plan some special time tonight with my kiddo.