I hadn't realized it until he'd said it, but our son robs others (including me!) of peace and just a general sense of ease and comfort, which I call 'happiness', whenever his mood chooses to do so.
He has a tendency to care very much for a few people and for the rest, he'll reject their overtures of friendship or kindness toward him with disdain, and sometimes even thinks its a joke to do so. I've observed this in him and encouraged him to correct it on different occasions. But until my husband spoke his observation, I hadn't put the two things together.
While I've been quite concerned that this child's temper flairs up with me, I've thought that as he is overly-sensitive and easily discouraged, I gave him room emotionally. But I realize now that the behaviour often has much more to do about sharing his misery so I can feel just as miserable, than his actual discomfort or suffering. Sometimes he does it as an act and thinks it's funny to pretend he's "a little bit annoyed" as a ruse. Act or genuine, I've had quite enough of it.
Which is where forgiveness comes in.
I think mothers, by definition, are concerned they're doing right by their children. Don't we sometimes replay moments with our kids in our minds, and think, "did I do that right?"? We don't want to be unkind, discouraging or unfair. Sometimes that's to the detriment of ourselves.
Realizing my son's been playing me for a fool has made me sad, cross and on the brink of spiteful. I consider the idea of telling him off, or of revoking all pleasures and privileges until he starts to treat other people (starting with me!) with respect and kindness. I think, 'If he treats his mother this way, how will he treat a girlfriend or wife?' and that makes me shudder.
My son is affectionate. It is lovely when he comes to me and says, "I love you Mummy," and spontaneously gives me a hug. But love is not a fuzzy feeling we express when we feel good about ourselves or another person. Love isn't a word we say to make someone else express the warm fuzzy feeling back to us. Love is deeply caring for another as much as (or more than) we care for ourselves.
I know my son loves me. I'm his mother and it's natural that he loves me. But I realize some of his expressions of love have not been sincere at all. I realize that sometimes he shows me affection because it makes him feel good and at least possibly, has nothing to do with me at all. And that hurts. Because whenever I am affectionate toward him, love is pouring out of me toward him that is deep, committed and assuring.
But of course he's 9. He isn't capable of understanding the many layers and permutations of love the way an adult can, though he's going to have to learn or else pity the girl friend or wife. And pity me a little for that matter, because I want our relationship to grow and last into the many years to come.
Now, how do I contribute to his education in this matter? How do I show him (because telling him seems to have no value whatsoever) that love is far more than an expression of affection. How do I teach him he's got to respect and value all others, whether they have something he respects and values or not?
First, getting angry or getting even, however subtle I might do it, isn't going to make him respect me or love me. Imploring isn't going to work either, and trying to control his behaviour won't teach his heart about love. Consequence will help but that isn't enough; I know that B (something he wants to do) must not occur before A (something he must do) happens... thanks for the wonderful book full of sound advice, Kevin Lehman. Your "Have a New Kid By Friday" is a treasure of sound advice.
But what must happen first for our relationship to improve and for our mutual love to deepen, blossom and grow, I believe, is forgiveness. I must forgive him for manipulating me (and forgive myself for my part in allowing him to do so - see previous post!), for taking my happiness many, many times, and love him in spite of his shortcomings.
It's not difficult for me to love my son. I'm discovering there are things about him I don't like, and I'm realizing some truths I am disappointed about, but I deeply love him. Finding the balance between firm parenting and building relationship is something that's difficult for me. I'm a natural verbal communicator, but in this case I'm not going to use words to teach my son about love and respect. And I'm not going to go into reaction mode, tail spinning into punishing him for being manipulative (and I realize that, in main measure, he doesn't even know he's doing it). So how do I deal with his attitude toward me and others? I start by forgiving him. When I've done that fully, I'll be able to see clearly the next step, and I'll let you know how it goes.
Until next Thursday, may your love be available, your lessons few and your forgiveness abounding.
|J and Me by Sarah Tun|
Love and God bless to you this week. See you next Thursday... AND:
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