We’re all looking for Connection of some kind, and the clearest model, if you’re fortunate, is the ordinary (but more and more uncommon) mom.
The little girl looked five years old or so. The woman looked thirty. Whether they were mother-and-daughter, I didn’t know, but my title calls her a mom.
I was mesmerized by their dynamic: they were connected so strongly, that the waitress couldn’t get them to order, smiled, and wandered off. A call on the woman’s cellphone went ignored.
Completely ignored! She didn’t even look for it, ringing somewhere in her purse. Nothing could distract the woman, nothing could distract the child. I was hypnotized by an absorption that should be common, but is (as I’m sure you’ve observed) quite uncommon.
The woman wasn’t Teaching, Correcting, Disciplining. She wasn’t frazzled, embarrassed or angry. I couldn’t wait to see how the moment might conclude. I could see moments of hesitation, as the woman waited, with a slight smile on her lips, as the child soaked in their intimacy.
No one hurried. The woman glanced down at her menu.
The little girl’s eyes wandered to a fruit plate that had been brought earlier. She began to squeeze a watermelon cube through her fingers. She glanced, a bit furtively, up at the woman. Sensing that glance, the woman observed the mess, wrinkled her nose slightly, shook her head side-to-side (slightly, with mild disapproval and a kind smile), and the little girl stopped. Clearly, she acted safe. And heard. She clearly felt . . . held. They began to discuss food.
The Tale Wagged
Do I romanticize? Do I think parenting should look like this all the time? Of course not; I’m a parent and a grandparent. But if several days go by without such times, I’m pretty sure the wheels begin to come off. The children begin to act out, trying different behaviors to get the connection they haven’t received. Then the grown-ups begin to feel helplessly “out of control”, get angry, feel overwhelmed and disrespected. The wheels have come off.
Yeah, but how do we put it into practice?
Several blogs on this site examine listening; that may indicate how hard it is to describe. We all assume we know how to listen, but ask any therapist, and they’ll confess they’ve exerted much effort learning how to truly suspend their inner chatter.
Some folks meditate, others weed their gardens, others may run a marathon. Many give up, and resign themselves to “an over-active mind”, but they aren’t at all happy about that defeat. A better defeat is to die to our cherished notions, projections, expectations, humbly realizing that we Just Don’t Know. It’s uncomfortable at first.
Occasionally, we must stop preparing our children for life, and consider that this moment might be life itself.