Driving home from a weekend trip to our friend’s cabin two weeks ago, my son surprised me as he spoke up out of the blue from the back seat. My little boy who struggles with quick transitions was perhaps exhausted from a weekend of swimming, knee boarding, campfires, late nights, giant marshmallows. He seemed settled in his car seat, all dozy with sun kissed cheeks, quiet in contemplation, looking out the window. But then he spoke up, waking me from my focus on driving the windy road along Hood Canal.
“Mama, I don’t want to die, and you know why mama?” As the tears exploded from his soul, “I don’t want to leave this beautiful earth. I love it so much.”
All I could do in the moment was reach back my hand and offer to hold his little six year hold hand in mine. My intense, passionate, alive, fully engaged little boy speaks such truth, such wisdom, such beauty. And not in a small way. Nothing about him is small. His love, his words, his passion, his out bursts.
I recently sought out help with his out bursts and visited a counselor who provided me with two tools for my back pocket. The tools have been quite useful. Usually his out bursts don’t deal with dying and leaving this earth they are more out of anger or frustration about not getting his way right then. Often at the end of moving from one thing to the next. He needs time to disengage and I don’t always prepare him or frankly, all the preparation in the world isn’t enough for him to adapt to the next thing. Low adaptability might be one way to describe part of his temperament.
My counselor advised “try not to problem solve right away, instead offer a reflection of his feelings.” So if he is expressing his feelings of frustration instead of offering a solution, say “I see you are mad about not having more time to play,” for example.
So I did this and have done it a number of times now. I already know exploding back amplifies the situation so I tried this new reflection by saying, “I see you feel this” instead of telling him to stop being upset and fixing the situation. Guess what? Yes. Of course it worked, I wouldn’t be telling you about it if it didn’t, right?
So when he told me a few Sundays ago that he didn’t want to leave this earth because he loved it so much I forgot about the whole not problem solving thing and I have no idea if I reflected back his feelings, I was just amazed. Amazed and in awe that a little boy could think like that. I was struck by his vulnerability, his beauty and could only offer my hand. Then I said stuff, stuff I believe, stuff I am not sure of, stuff that made him feel better, but with all those words my hand probably was sufficient.
We don’t have to prepare, teach, fix, solve, control everything for our children, for that would be driving on their territory, taking up their side of the road on this journey. Next time he explodes in frustration in an annoying way, I will offer my hand. And the next time his soul explodes with beauty about some poignant observation, I will do the same. Offer my hand and love him even if I am the one in the driver seat at the moment.