Sunday, October 17, 2010

saturday : navigation

Yesterday I (and we) had a moment or two to work through-- another part of this magical, wondrous life, hmmm?
I want to say it was intense, but that really isn't the right word, as 'intense' represents feelings of excitement or fear or serious agitation, and it wasn't so strong as that, more like... rocky and muddy.

Each of my children, at different times, came to me with a problem with a friend, and both said "I want you to talk to (him/her)." Of course, us doing things the way we do, I talked with my child about what was going on, their feelings about the situation, and what they wanted me to help them to convey to their friend.

I have so many thoughts and suspicions swirling in my head about this issue....

I'm coming to believe that I'm (not intentionally, but by default) teaching my children that all situations/problems can be overcome with communication.
"Use your words to communicate."
"Did you tell him/her to stop doing that, that you don't want to be jumped on?"
"Maddie... Trevy is trying to talk to you, to tell you he doesn't like that. He wants you to leave him alone, and you need to be respectful of that."
(Right... "you need to" isn't the ideal wording, here, I'm working on correcting that flaw...)
These are things that are said a hundred times at my house in a day.

I think I have an idea - maybe it's an ideal? - that people and life are fair and empathetic, and we all feel the same things, and we're all vulnerable, and it really doesn't cost us anything at all to say "Hey - I'm floundering here," or "Hey, I'm feeling mistreated," or "Hey, I'm feeling left out,"... and we have everything to gain by doing so.
Not in a sense of "I have a problem, and I'm handing it to you to fix it," (at least I don't think that's what I'm doing...), but rather "if we only communicate our feelings, others will recognize the injustice and unfairness, and will rectify it, if they are able."
Now I'm not talking about "my child has a need for everyone to play his game he invented, and so you should all want to play it." I don't get involved in that sort of thing - that's personal work to be done privately between friends.
I'm talking about "my child misses her friend, and she would really like to play with her, too, can you make room for her in your game?" and if not, then I try to come up with something different that my child might like to do, including a game with me or someone else.
Or "My child is trying to tell you that he doesn't like this game of everyone jumping on him - it hurts his feelings as well as his body."
In our house, that's what it takes to change things.
It's just a matter of "Whoa, there... I don't like that..." and everyone stops in their tracks - at least long enough to talk it over. (Well - except Maddie, she's a little slow on the stopping part.)
And we do a lot of talking.

So this is the way my children navigate with their friends and social gatherings, too.

It could look like being miffed at "not getting our way" to others.
It could look like my child is having a small (or large) fit of temper because things aren't ideal.
And I guess it is - it's how we do things.
We navigate through our lives this way.
We communicate honestly, and expect change, or at least a better understanding of ourselves and others.

So in the world outside our home we're finding situations where communicating doesn't always resolve things.
Yesterday my children were looking to me for the answers, and I found that I didn't have any.

Since part of the situation yesterday was related to things that seem to be recurring lately, I had the problem pretty heavily on my mind, ("my friend says he is not my friend, anymore"), I was feeling particularly lost and vulnerable.
Are we socially inept?
What is wrong with us?
Are we not likable? Are there detestable behaviors of my children that I do not see (as I love and like them so much)?
And the biggest one of all - "Am I taking this too seriously?"

But - the thing is - navigating through life and relationships is what we do. It's what we're about.
So if a friend says "I hate you," I/we are hurt by it, take it very seriously, and want to know the "why" behind it.
(See? Communication fixes everything.)


I'm wise enough (and reasonable enough) to know that whatever was happening yesterday was colored (and intensified) by my remembering that this same thing had happened at a couple other recent meetings with friends.
That it was possible that I was making a bigger deal out of it than it actually was. But at the same time, you don't want to assume that everything is fine and your friends actually are your friends, if they aren't. Right?
I mean - if they're not, then fine. Move on. Find others. You can't make people like you. Nor should you try - being eager to please everyone isn't something I want to teach my children.

I think another part of this is emotionalism.
Trev, Eric and I are pretty (er - possibly extremely) intense emotionally.
We express our emotions often and explicitly.

I think that might be odd to people, too - that we don't keep things to ourselves too much, but feel free to express how we're feeling to and among our friends. (And through a public blog, no less. oof. :) )
I'm a "Why?" kind of person, and since it's something I ask my children (because I genuinely want to understand things and To Know), they deal with their relationships in the same way often, and some of our navigations are through foreign territory - where others (four to eight-year-olds, older ones seem to understand us :) ) just don't bother with such questions (at least out loud), much less have answers for my two children.

Is this a disservice to my children, then?
Teaching them (however inadvertently) that communication is a resolution?
It doesn't feel like it (there's that word again), it feels like empathy and understanding and compassion and brotherhood and humanity and Oneness.

I don't care for others' opinions of "you're being too idealistic", as I reject outright the idea that the world is a hostile and unfair place. That just isn't my reality. My reality - my world - is a supportive and expansive place, a place where all things are possible, and love rules.
So the question isn't whether those teachings are proper or reasonable or not, but rather how else to navigate this rough terrain?

What's another perspective?

I'm left with the conclusion that the only thing to do (after we've gone our usual route), is just talk about it later, when we're out of the situation, and are feeling well-rested and hearty again. We can discuss how others see things differently. How others communicate differently. How others are just not as emotionally intense (joyful or frustrated or sad) as we are, and maybe don't understand it.
How maybe we're making a bigger deal out of it than it is.
How things turned out alright in the end (and indeed, there was much harmony and companionship after the first little while), and maybe it was just a moment of carelessness or intensity, and the moment itself just needed space to "be", and then it was over, and everyone moved on....

This, too, I guess, is a part of the navigation through this life and these relationships.
Maybe if we can't resolve anything in the moment, we shall still be able to talk about it and come to a deeper understanding of others and ourselves later, in a quieter moment.
Maybe insight and more understanding comes here, too, in the Afterward.

Maybe in this quieter, calmer space the Mama will get wiser also, and will be better able to See.
And better able to Know.
And therefore better able to Teach.


  1. Very interesting musings. You have only left out the aspect that comes up at my house often, (probably because we have four boys)and that is males tend to want to be the top dog, so squabbles sometimes are tainted with that urge. Sometimes I have one who expresses that something bothers him and it doesn't change things because the other WANTS to bother him. It makes him somehow one up. We are working on this. The old golden rule and all that, but I find myself up against the male ego often.

  2. It was nice to talk about this a bit on Saturday. Three more ideas come to mind after our conversation:

    1. I feel like an important aspect of communication education is all about thinking about how our messages are received, not just how they are sent. Does this even make sense? I think it is so admirable that you all have such healthy communication within the family unit. It's the perfect foundation for figuring out those nuances with "outsiders" as everyone grows and matures. Practice really will make perfect.

    2. Keep in mind that some children are dealing with really big, life-altering stuff. Divorce, in particular, comes to mind. Their whole world is turning upside-down and their methods of dealing with the upheaval will not always prioritize the emotional life of their friends. :( This stinks, but is also all part of learning and growing and knowing how to be kind and set boundaries with people in emotional turmoil. In my experience, this is a crucial life skill: Not taking personally the emotional overboilings of other people and taking them for who and where they are. (A skill I'm still learning, by the way.)

    3. This too shall pass.

  3. Thoughtful and eloquent as always. I think when communication and honesty are such strongly held and practiced values in your home, it is a challenge to meet conflict with those who are less skilled in it -- I have had to tell my own children that people often say things they don't really mean, and sometimes we have back up and look at whole picture to see if it plays out in the rest of their actions.

  4. I wanted to say something else -
    I often keep it short when I should explain, and over-explain things that are maybe obvious. sigh.

    When I said that older children seem to understand us well, I didn't mean that our maturity or wisdom is far beyond our peers (hardly!) what I meant was that while our personalities and traits might be irritating and incomprehensible to our crowd, older children seem to just shrug it off, and not worry about it.
    They're more willing to listen to another perspective - to help a younger child out when finding his or her way.

  5. Travis - we haven't even discussed it, yet.
    I don't think mine even know the situation, really.
    I wasn't sure how much to tell them, and how they would feel, hearing about it.

    I've been big on "how the message is received", lately (the last year or so). It's a huge part of it, to me.
    Communication is only communication when that is taken into consideration, as well.
    Something I haven't done too well with, lately. Been too busy trying to figure stuff out, looking for different perspectives (and solutions) that I've been rather selfish in filling my own needs, disregarding whether or not others would like to help me figure it out. sigh.

  6. In that line, think I'll keep things to myself (and here) for a while!!

  7. hmmmm. Very thought provoking. I have very, very poor communication skills, and it has held me back/hurt me badly all my life. I think you are doing a great job emphasizing them - and the friend questions are the hardest for sure. I learned a huge amount from this post that will help me with younger daughter's navigation - and I thank you for that. I also hope that your own issues resolve themselves peacefully. xo

  8. Oh Stephanie, I can relate to this issue.

    Benjamin is an only child, and admittedly, he is sheltered. It's not so much by choice but by circumstance--we do not live in a "development" full of kids, we do not see our extended family much (nor, their kids) and ALL of my friends work full-time & have kids in daycare/public-school.

    Benjamin's social skills are honed by spending 24/7/365 with adults. We discuss everything ad nauseum. He absolutely cannot relate to typical children--he just doesn't *get* them. And, they don't *get* him. I've actually had kids approach me on playgrounds and say, "Why won't he play with us?" I want to say..."Because you're 6. And he just doesn't get your way of playing/talking/thinking."


    I sometimes worry that Benjamin's communication skills may effect his ability to make friends--but I think he's navigating through life fine enough...there is no law saying he has to befriend kids his own age--or anyone at all, for that matter, right?


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!