I found myself sitting on the floor at night in the little refrigerator room off my kitchen this weekend (#smallkitchenproblems) helping two of my small children with big life problems.
15 min after telling them to get ready for bed, I found my six year old hiding on the floor behind the door with her head in her lap crying. I sat down with her and wrapped my arms and legs around her. She proceeded to tell me how she was tired. She was tired of being the best in her class. That her friends always want her to be the leader. That she needs to be the best. They come to her for answers. She feels as if she is the center of the energy that everyone depends on. Between sobs, she confesses,
"Mama I don't want to be the best. I don't want the attention. I don't want the boys to like me or my friend to want to be like me. I don't want to be the leader, I just want to be me. Why isn't just plain me enough? I am tired."
I think it is important as parents that as our children bring their hurt to our laps, that we don't immediately question it. This is real pain to my little one. I need to FIRST make sure she knows she is heard. That she is held. That she has a safe place to fall apart and won't be punished or shamed or dismissed. And PLEASE DON"T RUSH THIS. Sit in the uncomfortable and hurt and pain. Hold and be there with them. After a few moments I said,
"Baby, did you want to just tell mama because it was bothering you, or would you also like help finding a solution? What do you need from me?"
"I just wanted to tell you. It was bothering me."
"That is absolutely OK. Would you mind if I thought on it a bit so in case you change your mind and you want to find a solution, I might have some ideas later?"
"Yes mama. Telling you and being with you already makes it better."
A kiss. A squeeze. And she was off to get ready for bed.
Outside the door was my sweet 11 year old who feels big things. He then entered my temporary "office" and we sat on the floor, (Seriously I should wash this floor more often if I'm gonna keep having therapy sessions on it!)
I have tried reading between the lines lately with him and seeing signals and warnings of things he might be struggling with. Drinking seems to be a trigger for him lately and he had made an off handed comment that night about alcohol and being out of control. I had him sit with me so I could find out where it was coming from. If an incident had occurred and he didn't tell me.
As we sat and started talking, he couldn't really point to an event that happened. He doesn't like things being out of control. He has had some dreams and some kids at school tell stories, but all of a sudden he started to get physically upset. As his eyes started to become wet, and tears struggled to fall, his confession came.
"Mama, I am scared living here. I'm sorry. I feel sad saying it, but I get scared a lot and I don't know what to do about it. You and dad grew up in nice areas and your family was all around. It feels safe and fun and easy. I want that. I don't want to make you feel bad, but I'm scared here."
And my heart shattered into a thousand tiny pieces falling from my eyes to join my son's on our hands that were clasped together, now wet from his fear and my guilt.
We sat there in our pain.
Holding each other.
"I hear you." I whispered.
"I see you and I hear your fear. It is real and you have nothing to feel bad about it. It is so incredibly hard to be a child who has to live with the decisions your parents make. When your dad and I moved here, we couldn't afford anything else. We only had enough money for here. And sweetheart, we don't know if we could go somewhere else now, but God has kind of put a passion and love for this place in our hearts. I don't know how to hold our purpose being here and your pain together without hurting someone. We don't want to hurt you, or ignore you, or dismiss you and your very real fear at the expense of everyone else.
I don't want you hurt. I don't want you to grow so comfortable with fear that you don't know joy and peace and safety. I want you to be able to trust and be generous with yourself. I don't want our choice to hurt you. Oh baby, but I hear you."
"Thank you. I think I just needed to tell you."
I don't know much. I struggle with living in the paradox of purpose in community and purpose in family. The conflict of self and others. The tension of how to hold all things dear close to my heart where sacrifice is often required. No one ever told me how to parent, especially in racial, cultural, societal, global, religious, low income ridden, abusive, violent tension.
Thing is, living in the neighborhood that has a stereotype of being "the worst place to live" in the Twin Cities due to high violence, crime, and limited access and support to programing brings a unique set of challenges and strain. It is the neighborhood you turn your eyes from. The people that you can easily dismiss. The poverty you can ignore.
North Minneapolis is literally on the "wrong side" of the highway, the river and the railroad tracks. Historically, traditionally, and currently, North's narrative is one of minority oppression and neglect. It is a place to house all the folks and the problems that make life messy, because you know, they look different. Our white story here is not the same as the story of being black in the inner city, but we live on the same block on the wrong side of right apparently. The tension and injustice is real and we have found deep and profound insight, wisdom, and knowledge of what their journey means and how to walk alongside in the fight for justice and equality.
So we are simply just trying to live in this place and raise our children with a heart for mercy and justice, but that includes exposure to all the hard, complicated struggles of poverty. And that stress is real.
So I held him and prayed my words out over him. Begging for peace and God's stronghold on his heart to be stronger than anything else. To allow God's truth of mercy and compassion and love to be stronger than anger and fear and resentment. I prayed for boldness in speaking out, for confessing all things in safe places. I prayed that God would keep us as ally's for one another. That my son would know that God is for him and his dad and I will never abandon him. I prayed for a spirit of strength in wisdom and kindness. I prayed and wept all the words I knew over him.
I wish I could tell you that the tears disappeared and immediate peace fell over us. When my young son looked up at me, his eyes still wet, I'm not sure it was peace I saw, but maybe acceptance. A mutual understanding that I can't fix this problem, but I am in it with him. I can't make it go away, but we can sit on our gross floor together. We can eat cookies together. We can pray and cry together. We can play together. We can be in it together and hopefully over time, as we never cease in praying for deep soul inner peace, that one day when we wake up, we might feel that.
Until then, you can find me on my kitchen floor.
Please note: Before you all judge me for parenting technique, or the choices we make for our family, know that one never really walks in someone else's shoes. We only ever see each another's journey from the outside. I choose to believe that most of us are simply just trying to do our best. I ask that you credit me with the same respect.
And our lives are always changing, we as humans are always changing, and as a family, and as parents, Paul and I will continue to be faithful to each other, to our family and to our faith in how we make our choices. With new information, new fears, new circumstances, all these things are taken into consideration. We will always try hard and do our best for these children and our marriage that we have been gifted with. We do not take that responsibility lightly.
Thank you for being on this journey with us, and thank you for being kind in your response. (That was my passive aggressive way of saying, please don't be a jerk in your comments.) *wink