Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The library of our family

I always said I wouldn't compare my children, and I was wrong to think that.  Now I've decided: It's about whether it's a qualitative comparison, a competition of which child is more of something.  

My skin crawls when I hear adults do that about my children.  Steve assures me that in the end, it's about what children hear at home, and how their parents define them.  And I really hope that it's true. 

I don't think celebrating differences has to be a qualitative comparison. If it's about understanding the uniqueness, I think seeing children individually can actually be liberating for a child.  It's about saying we're all approaching life from a different perspective, and each of those perspectives is equally valuable or wanted.

Today, I was thinking about the Theme of a Child.  As if they're each a different book in the library of our family. What have I learned from each of my children? 

Jack's theme is more easily noticed and understood by others.  He's usually serious and cerebral and measured, and it fits well in nearly every environment.  So people tell him often how smart he is, how grown up, how "good" he is.  And I try to weave into his life periodically, reminding him that it's okay to not always be the Big Brother. It's okay to not always be the one cleaning up after others, fixing problems, staying calm even when he's upset inside.

People don't usually imagine that defining a child as "good" is a problem, but it's definitely a pressure that I'm not interested in my children having.  I want them to be honest and authentic, and sometimes that means throwing a tantrum when the situation requires it.  

With Jack, my parenting requires giving him space to figure things out (letting him make mistakes without any judgement at all)...not asking him to take on extra burdens, just because he's older...and reminding him that it's okay to have yucky emotions. 

Andrew's spirit is more easily misunderstood by others, but at home, I have such a clarity of his spirit.  I get it. I love it.  And while his spirit is more complicated to parent at times, to bring out to a restaurant, to figure out his best schooling...I see those as small drawbacks to the incredible Other Side to his traits. 

It is almost humanly impossible for him not to run.  At the water-park, the lifeguard blows his whistle and reminds Andrew to walk.  He walks for a few steps.  And then his body, almost as if powered by remote-control, tries to break into a run again.

He just loves life so damn much. And wants to inhale every single moment of it, which sometimes requires running faster to get it all in.

Before having Andrew, I didn't really understand that Warrior Side of a young boy.  To me, it represented aggression and anger and something pent up that shouldn't be there.  If a child was parented with love and gentleness, I thought that war-loving, weapon-toting side might not happen.

Experiencing Andrew taught me how completely wrong I was about that.  Thankfully, it was out of my system (we were never anti-gun) or else the tension in parenting Andrew would have been mind-boggling.  But I still learned so much about what that "pretend violence" and superhero play really meant to a kind-hearted, loving little boy.

For awhile there, I kept thinking of Andrew as a contradiction: How could he be SO MUCH of a warrior-spirit, and SO MUCH of a loving, nurturing, person-centered human being?  It didn't make sense to me.

But then he started talking more, expressing his mind, and he'd say things like: "I love you so much I would kill a lion for you."  Or: "If a bad guy ever tried to hurt you, I would stab him in the eye with my sword."

Coming from Andrew's sparkling, happy, joy-filled eyes, I started to see that this was how he loves. He will take care of people around him with a fierce territoriality.  He will give you the world's most amazing hugs -- but if someone messes with you, he will fight them without hesitation. He is a Protector.  The guardian of his loved ones. 

My mothering-side secretly hopes he's never recruited for the military, because I think he'd make an amazing Navy Seal.  He is wickedly intelligent and the miniature version of a man who would unblinkingly take a bullet for someone he loves or who needs protection.  And really, I'm not interested in my baby taking a bullet for anyone. I'm selfish like that.

And, Simone.  Her theme?  Brilliant firecrackers of color exploding through my life.   Her raw intelligence, her incredible awareness, her deep-seated intuition.  I love watching her charge down her life-path, like she's already read the map and knows exactly where she's heading.

When I think of Future Simone, I get these snapshots of images.  A recurring one is her standing on the Great Wall of China.  And she is looking into the camera with this triumphant glow, hands gently on her hips.  I don't even know the back-story to this mental picture -- whether we're there too...she's by herself...with friends?  I have no clue. I just know that she looks so amazed to be there, but this confidence cutting through the moment.  She understands the magnitude of the moment, but also knew she'd eventually be standing there.

I'm excited to watch where those tiny little 3-year-old feet will go.  She might scare her parents the way I scared mine at times, but I also look into her soulful, wise eyes and know she's going to do great. 

Examining their themes is like contemplating great books I've read.  Different styles and different authors and completely different plot structures.  But they each teach me something important and new -- about them, about me.  They shape my perception and make me a better version of myself.