My son doesn’t like to be startled. At all. Ever. He doesn’t like alarm clocks ( I don’t either ), car horns ( unless he’s honking them ), or fire drills ( they bring him to his knees). I know this about my son, and I accept it. We all have our quirks. I don’t like jumpy things…grasshoppers, frogs, crickets…bunnies are only just tolerable.
We were with a well-meaning acquaintance doing a planned activity that ended up being a bit louder and startling than expected. My son balked. He ran from the fun to a safe space some distance away…and I was okay with that. I knew what was happening, and I knew he was finding his solace. Our host did not understand that so much. And there were some chastising words spoken toward my son. And that hurt me.
I wanted to plug my son’s ears. I wanted to erase the two minutes of time that had just occurred and take him back to when that person was a ‘safe’ person to be around. Without realizing it, that individual had just permanently damaged the relationship with my great kid. No longer was he a trustworthy companion in my son’s eyes because he had poked an already sore spot in my son’s psyche.
As a kid, I used to sing the song ‘Oh Be Careful Little Eyes What You See’ in chapel at school. (And subsequent verses, ‘Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear’ and ‘Be Careful Little Feet Where You Go’…) It was a cute little ditty, reminding us not to put ourselves in places where we shouldn’t be…places where we can get into trouble…or where trouble can find us. But what if trouble finds you when you’re where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing, with the people that are acceptable company? What then?
Oh for cotton balls to shove in my son’s ears, band-aids to wrap his heart or bubble wrap to roll around his spirit at that moment. I agonized for him because I knew he had tried to be brave, and though he had succeeded in my eyes and his own, he had failed in the most verbal presence there. And there’s the key. He had succeeded, and there will always be verbal presences. He had sought his safe space where he could still participate, but from a distance. He had not denied the total experience. He had not thrown a fit. He had not screamed at the adult. He had not reacted negatively. He knew his limits and he lived within them. And I was proud of him.
I cannot follow my son everywhere and protect him from everything. That would create more problems than it would solve. But I can help him become strong enough inside that he is prepared when trials come along, expectedly or unexpectedly. I cannot shelter him from meanness but I can teach him to be brave in spite of it. I cannot block him from the evil that resides in this world, but I can show him that God is bigger than evil and that God lives in him…and loves him more than anything.
People hurt us. People close to us that know our inner struggles can hurt us deeper because they know our weaknesses. But we can heal and learn from those painful times. We can learn to protect ourselves emotionally when we’re around those people, and we can be compassionate enough not to act that way to others.
Oh, be careful little ears what you hear, and don’t become like the voices that spoke those words.
Psalm 103…parenting like God.
(Picture courtesy of blog.childandfamilydevelopment.com)