My nine-year-old and a couple of his buddies were loading into our car after baseball practice. Before I had started the engine, he surprised me with what he had to tell his friends:
“My mom’s going to play stupid ‘Follaton Wood’.” He neglected to tell his teammates that he has been asking for that song each time we had been in the car together lately.
I wonder…when exactly do I fall from being a light to the darkness? When does the outside circle open, only to become a force with much to contribute to what that child will become?
I am abruptly reminded that no longer am I alone at my child’s center, at least not around his people; at least not in this situation.
Does he really think our song is stupid? Did he really mean that?
Do the words and influences of others change who we are?
Maybe it’s just a flippant remark, but what if our words impact another in a way that we could never even know, in a way that could alter a part of who they are?
I was called to pick third same boy up early from camp following a behavior episode. In trying to understand what had happened from an outsider’s perspective, my emotions clouded my reason. In his fit of anger and physical angst, my little boy related to me that he was told by staff that they could “control” him. To me, this was dumbfounding, as in our life of chaos and uncertainty, I have worked hard to make certain that my children know that though they cannot control the behavior of others, they are the only ones that can control their own. These words triggered my son into a further state of confusion and rage at the camp. Through my reflections I can understand that the camp staff wanted my son to know that there were rules to be followed and that the counselors were in charge, but the delivery of those words sent my son into a place of helplessness. The incident haunts me, and causes me to wonder if the words that I have so often used to instill courage and confidence have caused him fear in the arms of the outside world, where I was not there to guide and defend.
When my sister’s friend pointed out my awkwardness as I showed her the routine I had so arduously perfected to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, my dreams of performing with the American Ballet Theater smashed with the same unfortunate end as the chicken egg that I dropped on the floor of the coop this morning.
I wonder if my words have ever kept someone from dancing for the rest of their lifetime, or even for one song. For my child, I hope that he will lift others with what he chooses to say and do; that he that he will be able to include rather than exclude; that he will be a person that makes a difference; that he will grow up to be kind; that he will choose to include rather than exclude.
When I was a lonely young mom, I raised my hand to greet a neighbor that was waving enthusiastically in my direction, only for her to tell me that she was not waving at me, but at someone else in the distance.
We never know how our words or actions will affect someone else.
I was almost fifty when I finally began to understand crop rotation.
Blissfully planting my tomatoes in the same two square feet every summer, I had never really given deep thought to why my first effort, many moons ago, had been my greatest yield.
My gardening has always been a seat-of-the pants endeavor. I liked it, so I planted it. If things got crowded or if a plant did not do well, I moved it to a different spot. There wasn’t a book that taught me what I longed to know. Rather, my teacher was experience, sometimes with multiple trials over time.
I guess parenting has been a bit like that. We try. We give it what is our best effort at the time. Sometimes, often, we fail. We do what we know. Then we try to learn more, and we do it all over again.
Maybe I shouldn’t have planted that vine right there. Perhaps I should have fed that apple tree at an earlier time in the season. Perhaps I should not have let my daughter go to that party. Maybe I should have collected my son from camp that day without questioning a thing. Maybe I should have just let them eat ice cream for the second time today. After all, I eat it whenever I like.
We’re on our fourth year of keeping chickens. It’s going pretty well. I hadn’t thought that I could fall for a chicken, much less 34. I may not yet be a farm girl, but I am pretty sure I am officially a chicken keeper.
And…I am pretty good at drinking well water from a garden hose…does that count for anything?
While my chickens learn instinctively to retreat to the coop at dusk and to lay eggs in their nest boxes, I am not quite so lucky. There are many things that do not come naturally to me. Give me a little time, though, and I will do my best to learn. I will try. But I still won’t be able to dance. And those words, that admission, is actually a little bit liberating.
I won’t stop trying to be a farm girl. I hope I’ll get there some day.
As we neared our destination, one of the friends piped up from the back seat of the car: “I kind of like this song. It’s pretty good.” I may or may not have turned the volume just a bit higher, and in that moment, I didn’t have to say a word.
“Follaton Wood”, by Ben Howard, is very much worth a listen.