Posted by: alegra22 | October 3, 2011

underside

In the dark, we are trees with strong, curving limbs, our roots woven together, our branches touching wherever possible. Between us, Joaquin rests as if the space is a hammock suspending him high above everything. Protected as thunder tears open the sky and flashes of light fill the room. The dogs bark, the cats complain, Joaquin kicks my chest with his feet. If toes could smile, his would be twinkling with mischief.

The rain is thick outside, so thick it blends into a rushing of continuous sound. Through the roar, I imagine all of the pockets of light and warmth and the walls surrounding other families. I imagine the conversations, the thoughts gathering in the air, becoming dense until they are a substance being inhaled and exhaled, recycled continuously. Zaviera comes stumbling into the room, her recently cut fringe sticking up. She burrows her way beneath the blankets, finding a space behind the crook of my leg where she rests her head, aligning the rest of her body so that our edges blend together seamlessly.

Sol is still out on the couch sleeping. I worry about him waking up and finding himself alone.

Earlier, he came home from school in a rage to find that I’d cleaned his room and taken out some of the toys. I had given him a choice: Clean your room or I’ll clean it for you. If I clean it for you, I’m going to take out some things to make it easier for you to keep it clean. You choose.

We’ve been working hard to remain rooted in our word with Sol, to weather the storm that happens when we follow through with the consequences we have set for him. Sometimes it means hours of having him threaten us, plead, and negotiate. The same cycle over and over again, but we’ve learned that it will pass eventually. And then it will return again, but with less strength.

I had been fair in what I chose to remove from his room – only extra pens and crayons that he didn’t need, a few toys he couldn’t name when I asked him what was missing, but still, he raged at me. He went into his room and wrote a note: I hate you Mommy.

He handed it to me and I said, “Oh dear, this is too bad.”

I put it on the table.

“I won’t hate you if you give me back my toys.”

“I’ll give you back your toys when you show me that you’ll take care of them.”

“But that’s too hard! You’re mean!”

“I know.”

“That’s unfair.”
“Maybe, but you made a choice.”

“I am never, ever going to like you again!”

Our housemate looked at me and said something along the lines of “Wow, you must just want a long time-out in your room sometimes!”

Yes, I said, but we’ve built up an endurance. And then the conversation led into a discussion of taking Sol for assessment. After our initial burst of ‘we need help’, Dan and I went back to searching out resources for ourselves, evaluating our own parenting weaknesses, and making progress. As I discussed it with our housemate, I suddenly understood it was nothing more than another step on the path of parenting, part of the adventure – who knows what we might discover?

Later, Sol came out with a picture of a horse. He thrust the peace-offering at me and ran away, knocking over Joaquin in his rush. I gave him a few moments and then I went to his room and repeated the lesson with him. I told him, “I love you.”

As he finished his dinner, I picked up the ‘I hate you’ note and asked him, “What would you like me to do with this?”

His smile was shy as he said,”Um, throw it away? Rip it up.”

“I think that’s a great idea. Or, how about I toss it in the fireplace. We can burn it.”

His smile lost its tentativeness.

“Yeah, burn it.”

Another flash of lightning fills the room and I think about the way life prompts us in unexpected ways. Joaquin’s hand snakes its way into my hair and he strokes the curve of my skull. His fingers still, he sinks back into sleep.

My children are teaching me that love has a depth, an underside that can be misunderstood.

The raging storm of ‘I hate you’ sometimes means ‘I need you to stand steady.’

When my children throw themselves at me, swing from my limbs, yank at my branches, they are testing me.

Please, mommy, bend, but don’t break.

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Responses

  1. I’m so glad you share your lessons. I’ve learned so much about parenting through you that I hope to be able to apply.

    • Awww Debbi, if I’ve never said it before, I’m saying it now: you’ve equally inspired me over the years that we’ve known one another. I am so honored to get to know you, even from a distance. I think of you and your wee one often. I do know that I’ve said this before, but I was ridiculously excited when you told me that you were going to become a mom, I just wish I lived closer so I could share in it with you!

  2. I only wish I had the articulation to grasp and crystalize these moments in life as you have…so beautifully and so at peace.

    I have to do these bi-weekly meditation/contemplative exercises out in nature for one of my courses and write about it. So last week I sat under a tree that is down the street from me. It is so big that the branches have gone up and curved back down to the ground again and then even back up. It almost looks like a merry-go-round. As the thunder came by it made me realize how this tree will never get blown over, no matter what comes by, a hurricane, tornado, whatever. It was just a nice thought. I even had friends who married there, beneath those branches because of what the tree symboized, such as stability and strength, that they wanted to incorporate into their own marriage.

    So yes, I am totally feeling those first few lines about how we are trees in the dark with our roots woven together. Beautiful!

    • Jen, this so beautiful – what a great class assignment! I could imagine the tree. I have a deep connection to the image of the ‘tree of life’: the silhouette of a tree with its branches reaching up and its roots mirroring, it just reminds me of how we are rooted and suspended between heaven and earth.

  3. Yes, esepcially considxering the roots in which we don’t see but are just as large as the tree above the ground…only half of what is actually there.

  4. I wish that we lived closer too. One day I will make it out to NZ and we will have a grand time!

  5. Lovely, and so familiar

  6. It’s funny how this pulls me back to my childhood – the tantrums, screaming, kicking, ripping of books – any effort to make my parents feel the anger and frustration I felt. And yet, like you, they merely bent with every storm, their branches enveloping me in ways that even still I can’t fully appreciate. Many times I regret that past, that I wasn’t the perfect child, but then perhaps a sign of success in life is the capacity to embrace and extend that love beyond and beyond. I used to loath the idea of being like either of my parents, and yet, now I would consider it an honor. I am certain beyond a doubt that each of your kids will come to a similar realization. I actually see Sol, the one with the most fire and chaos, becoming the most loving (as I think you’ve already realized, or at least hinted towards). His tendency toward extremities, while scary at times, I truly believe will manifest into a greater love. With you as his mother, as their mother, they will naturally evolve into amazing and beautiful facets of an amazing and beautiful person. Thanks for letting me be with you in this tale. ~Fireside hugsies~

    • Oh, Adam, I just came back to this (I thought it had posted long ago) as I was settling in to write a blog. I had to read it again. It gives me so much comfort and all I can say is: Yes, yes, and yes.
      And: ever-lovin’ hugsies my beautiful friend

  7. Your post has reminded me of my own children and how different they are, as most children are! Miriana has only ONCE to my knowledge thrown a ‘real’ tantrum, she was four and I had to drag her out of a mall back to our house (which was just across the road) I put told her off and put her in her room…and that was it, she never had a tantrum again…weird I know. Then Manaia comes along and we have tantrums all over the place!

    I don’t know what I would’ve done if either of them had written a note saying they hated me. I think you handled this situation perfectly. Just wonderful parenting. Patient and consistent, everyone knows kids need this in their lives to grow. Barriers and boundaries. My daughters both know that they don’t want to see dad turn into the hulk, so I am very fortunate that we don’t really have any (or many) behaviorally issues. Very lucky indeed.

    Your story should give other parents the strength to stay resolute when it comes to their own children and ‘tantrums’ that are thrown their way. Wonderful.


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