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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The big stuff

You know those days when you feel like you just put a chink in your kids' armor?

I'm having one of those days.

Maybe I've been up too late reading, or up too early not-writing (guilt, frustration, more guilt), or maybe I just woke up on the wrong side of the planet from friendly, warm, tolerant and patient. And even though the point I was making to my boys this morning about jumping to help when someone asks for it is a good/valid/vital point to make, I wasn't patient or kind. I was distant and annoyed, and I could feel the hurt pouring off both of them in waves. I didn't need to do it that way.

I think about all the ways we put ourselves together as human beings; the things we love, or dislike, the way we trust, or not, and the things we risk every time we try something new. Every disappointment adds a little armor, every success loosens the armor so it's not so tight and restricting. A lot of armor gets heavy and unwieldy, and makes walking through doors difficult. Not to mention the number it does on happiness.

As a writer, I'm always looking for ways to strip away my characters' armor; to take them to their most vulnerable place and then let them put themselves together again. That's usually when the story starts to get really good, when the reader becomes invested in the person whose imaginary struggles have just become something tangible. But as a parent, my job is to build up the confidence and self-assurance that makes armor obsolete. To give my kinds the sense of security that I'm not part of the problem, I'm part of whatever solution they're willing to let me in on.

I read a facebook post recently that said something like: "Listen when your kids tell you the little stuff now, so they'll come to you with the big stuff later. Because to your kids, it's all big stuff."

When I pick the boys up from school today they'll most likely have forgotten what happened this morning, or at least it will cease to matter in the grand scheme of friends and homework. But I will apologize to them for trying to teach a lesson from a place of annoyance and disappointment. Those are the places where armor gets made, and frankly, a foundry is too hot and uncomfortable to spend time in. I'd much rather be the parent who looks for the lessons in their greatness; who hangs out on the warm, friendly and tolerant side of the planet where Valentines get homemade and conversations about Lego castles and excavating the sand yard are the best ones of the day.

Because no matter how small it may seem, it really is all big stuff.