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day 81: what we want

April 23, 2011

My older son turned five on Day 81, and all he really wanted to do on his birthday was go fishing (definition: hold a plastic “Cars”-themed kiddie fishing pole over the water of our community pond while simultaneously peering into the murky water).  Despite predictions to the contrary, the rain poured down all day without respite.  We celebrated his day in other ways — he opened and played with gift after gift from relatives, we went to an indoor playground, we watched Toy Story 3 — but no fishing happened on Day 81.

From amazon.com, hours of fun and enjoyment.

On the morning of my son’s birthday, my husband had a work issue arise that required immediate attention.  In short, he learned he’d have to travel on the same day I’d been scheduled for an out of state trip.  As he and I hassled with the airline and tried to renegotiate schedules, the birthday boy asked for my help playing with a new game.  In my frustration, I found myself explaining exactly why I couldn’t help:  “Mommy and Daddy are dealing with a problem right now, and I am really sorry I can’t help you.  I am having a hard time figuring out something important …blah…blah…blah.”  I saw my son’s eyes glaze over about three seconds into my explanation, but for some reason I couldn’t stop myself.  When I was finished, he asked, “Could you help me play my game in a minute?”  When I said, “Yes,” he calmly left the room.

I was left thinking about how when we anticipate what others might want, we so often get it wrong.  If you’d asked me on Day 78 how I thought my son might wish to spend his fifth birthday, I would have assumed playing with new  toys, running around on a playground, and watching a movie would qualify as perfection.  The reality was far simpler.  And, while I know my children can’t articulate this reality, I believe what they want most from me is my healthy, happy presence.  My son was not interested in a detailed explanation about why I was addled yesterday, he just wanted me soothed.

It was a powerful reminder to remain conscious of how I show up to my children. 

You may disagree, but I think it’s my duty to protect them from my agitation; at least until they have some sort of context in which to place it.  After all, they don’t know the difference between changing multiple airplane flights and the end of the world, and they don’t deserve to worry about either.

For his fifth birthday, I made my precious boy an ugly craft.  Having bought some extra canvas and materials for my father-in-law’s collage (which, incidentally, didn’t turn out nearly as badly as I would’ve predicted), I had the idea to make a personalized wall hanging for my son’s room.  Coincidentally, a week before his big day my child walked into the office where I sat, surfing the web for birthday presents for him, and asked me to “make him something.”  When I presented him with Day 81’s gift, an imperfect Mod Podged canvas with his name decoupaged in all his favorite colors, my tender little boy hugged it to his chest.  “You made it for me!”  he beamed, bringing tears to my eyes.  No lights or buttons or superheroes or batteries in sight, and it was just what he wanted.  Go figure.

It’s raining again, but maybe tomorrow we’ll go fishing.  Wherever you are, I hope you are receiving exactly what you need, exactly in this moment.  Thank you, always, for showing up.

Some of you eagle-eyes may have spotted my inadvertently published notes at the bottom of yesterday’s post.  One was a reminder to share with you an update about Nathan and Elisa’s story.  In the weeks since I wrote about them, their tale has reached millions, with articles appearing about them in the New York Times and other publications as well as an appearance on the Today show.  Like their page, Team Bond, on Facebook to continue following their stories, and check out their blog as well.  Their courage overwhelms me.

Many thanks to those of you who have responded to the poll on my page.  If you haven’t, please take a second to do so — I really appreciate it.

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