Posted by: alegra22 | June 23, 2011

translation

Yesterday morning you woke me up with accusations. You declared the walls and their color unfair. You hated our house. You went stomping through the rooms, your fists clenched. It wasn’t even 7 a.m. You returned to point your finger at me and say, “You’re a liar, mommy. You didn’t clean my room. You lied.” Half-asleep, I try to explain to you that I didn’t lie, it got too late to finish your room. “Cleaning your room was your job,” I said. “I agreed to help you. The room will get clean, it just didn’t get finished. A lie is when you tell someone something that isn’t true.” Zaviera rolled over in her sleep and wrapped her arms around me. This only made your fists clench more.

The night before, I was sitting in the kitchen with Joaquin in my lap. You stood before me and told me that I couldn’t use your pen. “It belongs to me,” you said. “Andy gave it to me. I can tell you not to use it.” It wasn’t your pen, at least I didn’t think it was. But you stood there, refusing any other possibility.

At six years old, your righteousness bewilders me. Sometimes confronted with the way you translate the world, I feel like I’ve been dropped in a labyrinth. The walls shift, blocking me off just when I think I’ve found my way through. I bend down to draw an arrow to help guide me but before I’ve stood up, the arrow has changed directions.

I didn’t start out arguing with you. I began my usual course of suggesting other possibilities. I tried to discuss sharing. Your mind refused to change course. I kept banging into walls until in frustration, I said, “Sol, I’m a grown-up. You are six years old. It is possible this is not your pen.” You looked at me, your face unreadable and said, “No. I know it’s my pen. I know exactly what the back looks like. It looks like that.” You walked away.

Five minutes later, I called you back into the kitchen. Five blue pens were laid out on the table. I asked you, “Are you sure you know which pen is yours?” You nodded. “Okay, pick it out.” I pointed to the pens. You chose a pen. It wasn’t the one you’d accused me of taking from you.

“Are you sure that’s the one?”

You were sure. I bent down so that we’d be at the same level. I said to you gently, “That isn’t the pen I was using before. I did this so that you would understand you aren’t always right. Nobody is ever always right.”

This is just a string of moments taken out of so many moments that we navigate as a family. I see you translating your world in quantities. You weigh, divide, count, claim, reject, and accuse. When you trip and bang up against the door, you turn around in anger, “That was your fault for leaving the door open!” I feel half-blind, heavy-limbed when I say to you, “We’ve explained to you before that if you trip it isn’t anybody’s fault. It’s an accident. It isn’t okay to blame other people. You need to apologize for yelling at me.”

Close to midnight last night, your daddy and I sat in a pile of screws and bolts and pieces of wood. Instructions were laid out around us. Large cups of tea sat precariously close to our elbows. We were trying to put together your new bunk bed so that order could be restored to our home. Exhausted, I began talking to you in my mind. I wanted you to see us crouched in this small room, attempting to make life easier for you, to gift you with greater order and a sense of control. I wanted to be fair in my words. I wanted to say the right things so that years from now you could read this and you would understand how much we love you.

I told your daddy that I know when you are angry about the color on the walls, when you accuse us of lying, when you panic because someone touched your blanket, your pen, the boundaries of your territory, there is another language beneath it and I’m trying to listen. I am trying to find ways to speak to you in terms you can understand. I am trying to translate.  You are a gift written in a type of braille that I press against over and over until my hands and mind feel bruised. I wish I wasn’t so clumsy.

This is what we talk about as we fit pieces together and try to decipher complicated instructions – how we can help you to feel safe. We talk about the ways we can change as parents. It isn’t you, it is us. It isn’t a struggle, it is a new language.

You are teaching us that love speaks in its own tongue.

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Responses

  1. Love is much bigger than you ever dreamed before children, isn’t it. Beautifully, said and illustrated with words.

    • Yes, it is. I was thinking about this the other day while talking to a friend who doesn’t have children yet. I couldn’t have comprehended my capacity for love until I became a mother.

  2. This is the best thing I have read all week. I love the way you love, so gentle and truthful.. Love casts out all fears. I love how you work tiresly to give him a sence of order a place where he can breath and know that things are ok. I think of Adam walking in the cool of the night with God in the garden of eden with out a care in the world, a place where there is beauty and order, peace and life. I think of you both walking with your boy in the cool of the night lovng on him what a beautiful picture of who God iswith us… Love you as you give may he filyou to over flow…

    Ange

    • Ange,
      This was beautiful. I am reading a book you might like because it feels like it could apply to all relationships (you’ve probably come across this man’s writing before): Loving Our Children on Purpose by Danny Silk

      I thought of this when you mentioned the garden and that sense of peace.

      You’re such an astonishing soul.

  3. As usual, you bring tears to my eyes.

    • xxxx

  4. Such gentle writing and gentle parenting 🙂 I love it!

    My daughter often goes with the accusing way of talking, because she’s afraid to be wrong. It’s interesting for me as a parent, that the older our children get the more my mind is forced to go deeper and think about more than just the impression of the scene.

  5. You summed it up right here:
    “It’s interesting for me as a parent, that the older our children get the more my mind is forced to go deeper and think about more than just the impression of the scene.”

    Because Sol’s way of expressing himself is so different to anything my husband or I are familiar with, it takes stepping back to understand what is really happening. Our other two communicate in a way that translates effortlessly to us, so it has really been teaching us how to not react based on our knee-jerk translations of his behavior. What works for the other two does not work for Sol.

    It’s a lesson that extends to all relationships, I think. A mixture of going with our intuition, but also putting aside all of our own perceptions and trying to understand things from an open, unprejudiced mind.

  6. That translates in adults, too. How many of us push the blame far from our bodies and attempt to shift it to an innocent bystander? I think this culture is a circle of people pointing fingers to shift the blame.

    • Yes, it definitely does. My husband and I were just talking about how all of these things we observe in our children, and in particular, Sol, cause us to reflect on our own reflexes and tendencies. It’s humbling in the best possible way. Also, living over in New Zealand for ten years now I do see there is something culturally in the USA that tends toward that blame-shifting you mentioned. It isn’t so present here.

  7. “At six years old, your righteousness bewilders me.” I needed to read this post tonight. Yesterday I was feeling the very same thing about my firstborn, my six year old who is equally quirky and stubborn and twitchy and headstrong and opinionated about boundaries and things that belong just to him. He cannot stand still to brush his teeth, yet he can sit still and draw with the pen he loudly claims as his (yes, we’ve had that exact argument) for an hour. Being six and a boy and sensitive and super smart is oh so very difficult, and being that boy’s mama is too. You make me feel so understood with your words. How I love the way you write. Always.

    • It always does my heart so much good to hear from you.
      To this: Being six and a boy and sensitive and super smart is oh so very difficult, and being that boy’s mama is too.

      Yes, yes, yes.
      I wish we lived closer to one another, but I am so glad that I get to brush up against your words.


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