Super sappy post. You've been warned.
Do you ever have moments in your life when it feels like the carousel just slows to a standstill, like you're in a bubble and everything beyond it is blurry? Your senses are heightened and your focus is made so clear that it feels like you're in a dream? I had that sensation tonight, three times.
My son challenges me in so many ways. My patience, my sanity, my kindness, my resolve... my worthiness in being his mother. But tonight he shared so much with me that I felt so extremely grateful to be a part of this young man's life that my heart felt like it couldn't contain the emotions I felt.
It started at dinner, a very casual dinner. We ate pizza and drank Capri Suns while Klint played the acoustic guitar at the table. As Klint strummed a dreamy tune Jaakson says, "That sound like a date song...." We ask what he means and he explains that it's the type of song you would listen to while on a date with a girl. Then he offers, " I like Lou Lou and Bella at school... maybe I will decide to take them on a date when I'm older.... And I don't care who knows it." After giving him a surprised look he adds, "I'm not embarassed anymore to say who I like." and then struts back to his chair with his chest puffed out. I acted agreeable and casual but inside I'm truly impressed with this unabashed, mature attitude.
A couple of hours later Jaakson and I are sitting in my bedroom, finishing up his homework before bedtime and we hear Klint playing some more slow songs in the other room. This time Jaakson stops his homework and says, "...Mom, Daddy's songs make me feel like crying." I think he's joking but when he looks up at me there are huge, fat tears in his eyes and they start rolling down his cheeks. I want to laugh but then my heart swells and I smile at this sweet, young man. He doesn't seem embarassed, but rather puzzled as to why music is making him cry. I take the opportunity to explain to him that it's a gift to have such a tender heart that music can touch it and make him feel such powerful emotions. We hug and he continues to sniffle for the next five minutes while he works on his homework. I can't take how sweet my son is, at this point.
Then a little later, when I am walking him to his room to say goodnight he stops me in the hallway and says, "Mom, I feel bad that back in Martin Luther King's time black people were treated badly and couldn't sit where they wanted to or have the same opportunities we do. I feel bad because I'm white, too." I explained that what happened back then has nothing to do with him and that he didn't live back then or take part in that thinking/behavior. I reminded him of his good heart and the teachings he believes in- that we are all God's children on this earth, no matter the color of our skin. He feels better, hugs me, and goes to bed.
I feel humbled. I will be honest and say that sometimes I felt pressured from other people about Jaakson; his grades, his behavior, his work ethic, his manners, etc. The list goes on and on. Over the years, no matter how hard I wanted to resist, this pressure started to affect how I viewed and treated my son. I became demanding, relentless, and unyielding.
When Jaakson was a toddler, I wasn't a hover mother. I wanted him to explore and learn thru trial and error (safely, of course). I encouraged him to be independent and speak his mind. I never spanked. I felt that if he didn't want to give someone a hug or kiss, he shouldn't have to. I let him wander ahead of me at the park or mall, always within close eye-sight. I felt I was raising a well-balanced, able little boy. I felt like we were doing everything right, as parents. Then came the school years. Preschool and kindergarten were fun times and Jaakson enjoyed school immensely. But after first grade and especially after we moved to Arizona in third grade, Jaakson started to loathe going to school. It's been a common theme from Jaakson's teachers that he is a bright child but he needs to have more self-discipline and buckle down with schoolwork. Be more responsible. I was faced with the fact that we needed to run a tighter ship at home and to expect more from Jaakson. I felt like I'd already failed as a parent from the start and had a lot of making up to do. Without going into specifics, this scholastic year has been a little hellish for all of us but especially for Jaakson. But in most ways, it was necessary and Jaakson has worked REALLY hard to overcome SO many obstacles. I am so proud of his endurance and his faith in himself and his Heavenly Father. Jaakson rose to the occasion and has exceeded our expectations.
Tonight I just felt like I kept getting smacked in the face with how amazing my son is! He truly is a tender-hearted individual and feels emotions on a very deep level. I haven't valued this attribute enough. I should not worry about his grades, popularity with teachers, or ranking in school so much that I forget that he is an individual with complex feelings and a mind of his own that needs nurturing, not judgement.
When he was little, everyone always told me how cute and funny he was. I was always proud of what a handsome little boy he was. Since he has gotten older, when authority figures began to share their concern about his behavior or performance at times, I felt like I needed to hurry and "fix" him so they wouldn't be bothered or irritated by him anymore. I didn't want to have a "problem child" teachers wouldn't like. This school year, I have chosen to embrace and nurture Jaakson's struggles and work thru them with him instead of being embarassed or annoyed by him. And it's made all the difference, for both of us. Jaakson is my son and it is my honor to help him find his way thru the tests and trials of his childhood. I feel Jaakson truly knows now that I am his biggest supporter, not just his disciplinarian. Getting to teach him about life has enriched my own life more than I could have ever imagined. I will sometimes think, 'I hope I don't screw him up too bad! I hope he won't be too traumatized by my mistakes as a parent." But times like tonight, I feel so blessed to be raising such a truly sensitive, bright, funny, and energetic individual. This little man blesses me 100 times over and I wouldn't change anything about him.
I'm grateful for the moments I had with him tonight. I will better remember to nurture his sensitivity and encourage voicing his opinions. I can't wait to see what else life has in store for him in the coming years.