As the mother of two, I often find myself learning as much as teaching. Probably more so learning than teaching, honestly. The two pieces of me, that walk around outside my body while I pray they stay safe and make good decisions, live their lives without the fear and stress that comes with adulthood. Another perk of hitting that milestone, like voting and paying back student loans, we incur a boat load of stress at some point in adulthood that few of us learn how to handle effectively. Often times I look into their innocent faces and am almost jealous of their curious abandon for rules and order. It seems almost foreign to me. So foreign that I, along with many other parents I suspect, don’t really know what to do with it. We have long since abandoned the carefree days of living without society telling us what is good and bad, right and wrong. Sometimes, I can truly appreciate how much they enjoy the simple things that make life worth living.
My 6 year old is different from me. As a parent, that is tough some times. I feel like I don’t know how to raise him most days, and I am struggling to keep him emotionally sound. We usually try to fit our children into boxes we can understand, because that is how we make sense of things. We aren’t given manuals on how to live our own life, let alone how to teach someone else to live theirs. Myles is the sort of child that will seem like he isn’t paying attention to me or what I am saying, but will turn around and make a point at just the right time that feels far too mature for his little brain.
Last night we were talking about conforming to what society wants and expects. I, of course, wasn’t talking about this concept directly to him, he was in the periphery of the conversation. I was speaking in the vein of how hard we should try to push him to societal norms, to always stay calm, to listen, to communicate clearly about his feelings. I was mentioning things to family members about how Myles is his own person, and different than Korbin, my oldest, who communicates and feels emotions differently. And we need to be aware of how much we are pushing him to be like everyone else around him. His individuality makes him who he is and we need to try to honor that and not extinguish it. Myles, who was playing in the bathtub, grabbing at the calming effervescence of the bath bomb he got for Easter, acting like he was simply hearing back ground noises, looked up at me innocently. His eyes were wide and he calmly said to me, “Mom…I want to be me. I don’t want to be anyone else. I like being different.”
He said it like it was a fact. And he was comfortable in it. As I am struggling trying to make him fit into society, to be more like everyone else, he is comfortable standing on his own, simply being him. This is the first time I have heard him vocalize this, and not the only time we have had conversations about how everyone is different and special in their own ways. We talk often about how we should embrace others for who they are, and differences should not divide us. And for that moment, as he was telling me that it is ok to be different, I learned a valuable lesson. Well, a few actually.
One – our children ARE listening. To the conversations we have, and that the world is having. And they are taking notice. Two – without the burdens of adulthood and life, a 6 year old can understand there are differences between all of us, but those differences are ok. Three – it might take awhile, but at some point, all the noise will make sense. If even for a second. As I have been struggling with how to be the best mom to this little ball of energy, maybe what I have been doing is closer to enough than I thought. Four – I hope…at least in some ways…that he never loses that innocence and strength that makes him confident enough to say “I am ok with who I am”, because for me, at 35, that is still a difficult thing for me to say.