Just this evening, my daughter, Ava, texted, “Mom, I have to tell you something. Don’t get mad.” (This of course means, “Mom, I am equal amounts terrified and worried that you’ll punish me or that I’ll disappoint you. Tell me everything is okay.”) I imagined the worst thing that could happen and decided before I called that I needed to be in the right mindset. If everyone was alive and unharmed, I needed to keep my mouth closed and ears open. This was either fixable, or of no matter.
Ava cried as she explained that a glass broke. (Not just any glass, but a personal favorite.) While I tease my children that nice things happen to other families, nothing major has ever been broken or replaced in my home. I’m desperately trying to raise children that feel the weight of responsibility. In that moment, I had many options. I could have raised my voice, or demanded to know why she was even using a glass she was not supposed to touch. Or, I could choose a different path.
This is my life-lesson: Everything comes down to a decision over time: Do we engage, or disengage? Life reminds us of past mistakes at all possible moments- a conscious memory that reminds us to look what’s happened before and what might happen again if we don’t choose another way. I raised my voice to Ava before when something was broken. I’m dealing with her emotional flinch years afterwards. And it’s changed my parenting dramatically.
I told her wavering voice, “That’s a bummer. I’m sure you are feeling sad that happened. Thanks for being honest with me.” I listened and responded to Ava and used every moment of patience I had been practicing joined with my velvet-soft words to sooth, instead of interrogate. There was no punishment, because her true punishment was self-inflicted. And that was that. Crisis averted. A much-needed no-bullet moment of parental Russian Roulette. The equivalent of DEFCON 1 in nuclear parenting with the lingering promise of total destruction. Basically, every moment of everyday in the life of someone raising children.
I’m acutely aware that sometimes, things just break. Ava’s father and I broke a glass 2 years ago when we separated after many years. We gingerly walked around the floor in every possible way to avoid the shrapnel of what we both refused to pick-up. After copious tears, guilt and a death grip equal only to the poster of a kitten hanging from a branch- we too, had to have a talk about what the hell we were going to do with all the glass. It’s now so shattered and widespread, it became unbearable to think of the work and finger pricks involved in cleaning the shards of what we said, chose and ran from. With pieces everywhere, the knowledge that I’d be cut permeated some of my language and actions. I didn’t even want to talk about the glass anymore- let alone the pain, work and resources needed to contemplate a solution. Call it DEFCON 3 of co-parenting: Complete and utter disengagement that was causing emotional flinches every, single, day.
It wasn’t all glass. There was 6 years of moments filled with such clarity and love, I could hardly want for more. I’ve lived seemingly a hundred love-stories with a few people, and he was the protagionist in almost every one. But now, even years later- we’re surrounded by what you can’t quite walk away from: the realization that things are sometimes so irrevocably-shattered that there is no possible way to paste, tape, massage, pray or force the tiniest pieces together to create a Kintsugi worthy of all the hard work. It’s not exactly humbling, nor demoralizing. I guess you could say, it is what it is, too.
With so much opportunity before me, I keep getting caught up in looking backwards and re-hashing each moment in sheer obsession to learn. What could I learn from that disagreement, or my need to be the parent with more rights and less wrongs? How could I have been a better human to prevent this all from happening to begin with? The past is littered with overwhelming details of sometimes little importance. I write to remind myself that while it once was of utter importance, there’s nothing really left of any significance- it’s heartbreaking, isn’t it?
Life is here, right now- and it says, “no more.” If it possible to suck every lesson out of moments so all that is left is not anger or regret- but indifference? That’s the crux of clarity: I don’t like what I see or feel, but I can’t change the situation. It simply is what it is and I’ve felt the indifference for too-long of a time- so long in fact, that it’s clouded 2 years of relationships and possibilities- until now.
This is why I’m convinced the future is determined what I choose to pick up and what I leave behind- even the smallest decision carries incredible weight into my future. I have the smallest possibility in the form of one of a great, big adventure. It’s never looked like this- or felt like this. I’m utilizing all my AGAPE- and each lesson that’s brought me here- but within reason. I have a mental check-list going to make sure the gravity of this new situation is fully-understood with the most important theme being: Choose the right reaction when the glass breaks.