I delayed this write up for two days, so let’s get it over with. On day 182 and 183 (yesterday), I mentioned that Julian had a moment of reflection (actually second time in the last month). It is as much surprising, as stimulating, and a bit sad, but also… positively challenging for me as a parent.
Let’s rewind to the first event. I have to admit that my memory doesn’t serve me well, and I don’t think I saved any form of memo about this day, so can’t precisely tell which day it was. If I recall correctly though, I am sure it was beginning of February, and very likely my birthday evening. I was lying in bed, and heard Julian making sniff-like noise. It wasn’t anything unusual at first, because at the time very often it happened that he had some cold symptoms, or running nose, but it went for too long that evening, so I started wondering what’s the reason. When approached, he was a bit reluctant to even turn towards me, so I knew immediately that something is not right, and he is sad for some reason. He doesn’t really cry, or express too much of an exaggerated sadness, so I knew this time he must be really upset. After a short chat I asked him to get out of bed, and walk downstairs with me, to talk more, but on neutral ground. Let me explain shortly what I mean by neutral ground. It’s well documented in psychology, that we should avoid stressful thoughts, prolonged sadness, and insomnia scenarios, while in our designated bedroom. The reason is simple, if we keep allowing ourselves to be sad, anxious, etc. in an area of our home, that should be our calming, relaxing space, designated for recovery, and deemed a safe harbour – we will start associating it with negative events and thoughts, and might turn this place into a trigger for vicious cycle of those dark moments feeding itself in a loop, by just staying in bed. That’s why I asked Julian to get out, and move to the living room with me, so we can have a proper chat, and disassociate bedroom from those thoughts.
What thoughts? A very much adult like thought, that I was surprised to hear from an 11 years old boy. He got so much influenced by the fact that I celebrated 40 years of my life on this planet, that somewhere in the back of his head a thought started growing about how fragile, short and fast going human existence is. This culminated in the evening exactly, before he was about to fall asleep, that he realised that dad is getting older, and the time passes by. He got so concerned about the fact that we all grow older, that I was caught by surprise, and had to regroup my thoughts to address this discussion, and return it to neutral track, make some positive out of it, and ensure he feels comforted enough that he can peacefully return to bed, and have a good night’s sleep. I succeeded.
To give you short version, I basically told him what I think, and how I feel about it, without making it child friendly really. That it is kind of sad, but we should focus on making the most of it. That even though we know that life is not to be taken for granted, and there’s always risk of sudden end to it, outside of that obvious risk, I do not plan to go anywhere. That I plan to live as long as possible, as healthy as possible, and that many great stuff awaits for us. 40 years for some has a pejorative meaning and vibe. Some say mid age, some say they are getting older. I know I am, but I was approaching my threshold of 40th birthday with the same attitude, as I have now – that this is my second life, new chapter, chapter full of opportunities, supported by a lot of experience and knowledge that I gathered so far. It is nowhere near settling down, quite the opposite, this is the moment where I am starting to live to the fullest with every year onwards.
This is my mantra from the very beginning. I am not feeding my boy with all the lies, and sweet stories about life, that are untrue. I am honest with my son and best friend, and will be always. This makes me who I am, and after those 11 years, even external spectators see how strong bond I have built so far with him. I like to think that it’s because my honesty with him, but also the fact that I don’t spare any moment to hug him, tell him how much I love him and how important he is, as well as stop many times even very important things, just to answer his questions or queries. I want him to have similar respect to other people, and treat humans like humans. Be empathic, and always mindful of other peoples state. I cannot tell him to be it. I have to show him, by being it myself, and only this way I have a chance (not guarantee) that it might spill over him, and so far it works a charm.
…but it has drawbacks. While his colleagues might not be so mindful, and still enjoy their 11 years old careless lives, he is already much more aware of what’s in store for all of us. It makes him smarter about life, but also more sensitive, and exposed to potential trauma. But this is parenting. Some people think that there’s a golden bullet, sweet spot, magic formula to raise children for good people, citizens, and that there’s such thing like good parenting. No there isn’t. At least not in the form that people think there is. Truth is that we will all screw our kids up, one way or another. Like physics, nature, and all other things – there’s balance, and one thing we do right from our perspective, has always drawbacks, and potential negative impact on their life. It works both ways, and proofs are abundant and everywhere. Many kids that experienced pathology, or growing in disadvantageous environments, or having disadvantages of different form, made it up to successful people (whatever we call it, and whatever we think it is). They are happy, against the grain, and odds. There’s no magic bullet. As a parent you just do the best you can, and hope for the best for your child. Of course there are certain aids, and norms that might help you do it as optimal as possible, but optimal for what? For norms decided by society? Which society? Can you see the problem here? Regardless what guide, or author you read or listen to, regardless of what advice you get from your mother, father, uncle, friend or therapists – they are all biased. By their perspective, by perspective of others who taught them that, by the perspective of those who written or created those standards. Everything in this is relative, so just do your best. Be open minded. Listen to your child, observe them, try to answer questions regardless how weird they sound – it stimulates your rusty brain of an adult to think like a child. Pure, creative, and honest being. Isn’t it what we’re looking for? To go back a little, and recall those moments of being a bit less stressed, less mature, less attached to this rushing world, fast reality, and adulthood that we probably wanted so bad when we were kids?
So this happened early February, and now we are in March, and it happened again. While I was writing one of the posts in the evening, the same sniffing happened on day 182, which immediately caught my attention. I’ve put the laptop away, and asked Julian to come downstairs, where we discussed what’s wrong again. While he said it’s not exactly the same thing, it is related closely, and he couldn’t express it in words by saying it, so I asked him to write it down, in my notes on an iPhone.
Let me leave you with this screenshot, raw sentence from an 11 year old boy, who’s message should made you stop and think. Is what we do worth it, and should we realign with inner selves – to use our time here, to the fullest, on our own terms.
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