“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.”
henri nouwen…on friendship
This is one of the HARDEST things in the world to do! And at times it feels almost impossible to do as a mother. I’m becoming more aware every day of how different my girls respond when they feel heard and affirmed in whatever they are feeling. My kids don’t want to be fixed, which is what I am naturally drawn to do as a mother, they want to know they are not alone and that they are understood.
Tonight I hit the recurring issue for Garmai which is a feeling of loss when she sees the attention she once had all to herself directed towards either of the girls. She came from neglect and abuse, to the total undivided attention of first time parents, and then had to give some of that attention up so her sisters could receive the same. Travis and I were joking tonight about how weird it is to say that Garmai is our “low maintenance” child. She was anything but low maintenance when she arrived. But she is such a pleaser by nature, and if those around her are acting out then she acts out less, which often times means she’s easier to overlook and gets less attention.
Tonight I walked into her room after leaving Emma’s room saying goodnight. Garmai had her back to me and wasn’t real receptive when I tried to initiate a hug goodnight. Many nights I am just too exhausted to engage the issue, but tonight I felt I had some reserves left and so I sat down next to her and asked her questions. It took everything in me to restrain the part of me that wanted to “fix” what she was feeling, and explain that we didn’t love her any less and what she’s feeling isn’t true. Its also hard not to justify yourself so that what she feels is accurate…and, its hard to be “punished” for something you haven’t inflicted and that you’re working so hard to help heal. In a nutshell, its hard to accept her reality without trying to immediately change it.
But tonight I tried my hardest to not do that, and instead I tried simply to verbalize what I heard her saying, help her put words to the pain she’s feeling, and give her my undivided attention that she is still so needy of (while rubbing her head). By the time we were done talking she looked full and relaxed, and she’d gotten to a good place all on her own. She also didn’t feel like she’d done something wrong, she felt understood.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that there are a lot of time I don’t respond that way. I respond a lot of times out of frustration for being mischaracterized and for my efforts not being seen and received like I want them to be (very “other centered,” I know!), as well as out of pure exhaustion. That same scenario could happen in any given day 10 to 20 times, with any of the girls. And I don’t think its wise to engage it every time. But I want my attitude that I react out of, no matter how I respond, to be one that allows for their feelings, whether accurate or not, and does not give to the temptation to “fix” them! Otherwise its really more about me and my own uncomfortability than it is about them.
I felt proud too, that I was able to do the same thing with Emma tonight earlier in the evening, and the same thing happened…she got herself to a good place, but without pressure or shame. And she could feel good about her own choices! Yay! They really are quite astounding children, just high maintenance. And they’re fun! And quick side note, I felt better at the end of the night because I didn’t take on so many of their feelings. Funny how that works!
Henri Nouwen’s quote is one that is easy to “amen” and amazingly difficult to actually do! I do desire it though.