The memory is chiseled in my mind as in stone. It was during the season I learned to enjoy my own company, a life-lesson years in the making.
Sitting on a park bench sipping a Chick-Fil-A lemonade and reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the fourth time, a cozy blanket of sunshine shrouded me with perfect climate. Slight movement to my right captured my attention: a swallowtail butterfly slowly batted her fairy-dusted wings, a coy but friendly “hello”. Her tongue uncoiled to taste splintered wood–surely it was bitter in comparison to the sweetness of floral delicacy. I held my breath not wanting to disturb her…desperately wanting to
call out to someone–anyone–to enjoy this rare moment. I knew to do so would send her away, and this treasured moment was only mine to enjoy.
Soon enough the moment passed and the swallowtail moved on to her next banquet.
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Some of the best conversations with my children have taken place in a parked mini-van in our garage.
Candid and revealing.
A recent conversation unraveled as they usually do, begun after dark on the way home from “something”; I can’t even recall what led to it.
What ensued was an eye-opening lesson in how parents can presume wrongly where their children are concerned, and they, in turn, do the same.
It ended an hour after I had parked the car and turned off the ignition.
My children are middle and high school aged now, so I can actually enjoy “adult” conversation with them. I suppose, in part, because they are this age, sometimes I “hear” much of what they say when no words are used at all. They converse with attitude, with body language…and sometimes, with silence.
Over the past year, I had detected a vibe from one of them, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but it felt like a loss of respect for me. Taylor* wasn’t disrespectful, but I sensed this all the same.
Was it because I was an at-home mom?
Could it be I didn’t compare favorably to my child’s friends’ mothers?
Was this child seeing ALL my imperfections and realizing that I was fallible? (If that was the case, I was fortunate it had taken so long!)
Whatever the reason, I was certain something was going on but didn’t know how to address it; probably, more accurately, I didn’t want to address it. Again, this wasn’t a case of outright disrespect, but there was little doubt it was merely vain imagination, either.
And then this conversation confirmed what I suspected.
We talked about a lot of things before getting to my suspicion. When a child begins exposing his/her heart, you sit still and listen…and relish the moment. Those moments are rare, at least the ones drenched in exquisite beauty, the secret notions of a child’s way of thinking.
Much like the fragile beauty of a butterfly’s wings in deliberate, cadenced flutter.
As the conversation continued, it was clear this was a good time to discuss my concern. It was in keeping with our tone simply to acknowledge what I thought to be true.
“It seems like at some point over the past year you’ve lost respect for me,” I said, somewhere between a statement and a question.
“You know, Mom…you’re right,” before I barely finished the sentence.
I don’t think I expected that, not so bluntly anyway. Taylor must have been looking for opportunity to bring this up, too.
I get a lot of things wrong as a parent but one thing I strive for is open conversation with our children; I want them to have the freedom to say anything to me, as long as they do so respectfully. There was no disrespect in Taylor’s voice when those words were uttered, but if I’m not mistaken, the admission was framed in relief.
I didn’t overreact but invited further explanation. The answer surprised me just as much as the original confirmation.
Trying to figure out the “right” way to express a painful thought, Taylor navigated shark-infested waters and ended up saying something like “Sometimes your Christianity is sooo hypocritical….”
I sure hadn’t seen that coming…!
To be continued….here.
* If you’re a long-time reader, you already know Taylor isn’t the name of any of my children; to protect the identity, I’ve chosen a gender neutral name, cause “who” it is doesn’t matter a bit.