Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Raising Jackson: Kindred Spirits
Well...I got mine. It's true, I think, that everyone who has children can see pieces of themselves in their son(s) or daughter(s). The good and the bad. But, sometimes, a child will come along who is so like ourselves...not in the mirror mind you, I'm not talking spitting image here. I'm talking about the soul. What's in the heart. I call mine the "child of my heart" for fear of using a less flattering term. Deep down, Jack and I are kindred spirits. But what happens here is this: We fight.
We don't just disagree sometimes, arguing as you would with someone over a split piece of chocolate cake. Oh no. We. Fight.
Now, not all of this is due to that kindred spirit I speak of - that's just an explanation for it, not the reason. Jack is a passionate soul. When he is happy, he is the single most loving, giving, warm person in the room - in the world. He walks into a room and truly Lights. It. Up. I mean that very sincerely. Maybe you have a child like this. Maybe you know someone like this. Hell, chances are you've fallen in love with someone like this - it's easy to do with these room lighters, let me tell ya.
There is a flip side. When Jack is angry, there isn't a soul for miles who doesn't know it. He breathes and sweats that anger. It radiates from every limb. When he is angry, he is walking, talking, breathing, sweating, being - angry. This is the side of Jack that is difficult to raise. There is no reasoning with Angry Jack. There is no calming, reassuring, or squelching Angry Jack. He just IS. And the aftermath is typical of any violent storm - there is damage. Residue. Holes in the wall, broken doors, bruised hearts.
The good news here is that Jack is not afraid to talk. He freely shares his feelings, his emotions, his thoughts with me (well, pretty freely, considering that he is a pre-teen boy). There is no wondering what kind of mood Jack is in. Ya just Know. Ya know?
But I Digress. It was towards the end of one of these storms last night that something happened. In my eyes, it was nothing short of miraculous. We were squared off at opposite ends of the laundry room, like a couple of cowboys in an old John Wayne flick. Arms at our sides, hands curled into fists, with our fightin' faces on, Jack says something to me that stops me in my tracks. It wasn't so much the words he used (which I'll keep private, seeing as I'm letting the universe in on everything else about our relationship), as it was the tone he used. He changed his voice just a touch. Softened his tone just enough, uncurled his fists just a hint, let the fire out of his eyes. He let me in beneath the anger. And I softened. I listened. He listened. And then we both sat down and talked it out.
I explained to Jack that I really do "get" him - because (and son, I know you don't want to hear this, but...) we are sooo much alike. Creative souls. Passionate. Complex. Begging to be understood, if only by the ones closest to us. Maybe he got it. Maybe he didn't. But it made us both feel better, I think, to understand a bit more why the two of us fight so much.
Now, as a parent, I can't let this kindred spirit stop me from parenting. I can't let it lower my expectations. It doesn't, for example, excuse the violence, the disrespect. Not for a second. But what it does do is help me to understand from where it comes. And that is the first step in helping Jack learn how to deal with it, diffuse it, and find more acceptable ways to handle it.
No one said parenting was easy. And when you're dealing with a strong-willed, complex child, well, all I can say is, may cooler heads prevail.
I think I may turn this blog - Raising Jackson - into a series. If I knew of a parent going through the same type of challenges as me, who was willing to lay it out in a blog, I'd certainly feel better about my own challenges. And maybe I'd discover some idea I hadn't yet tried.
What I learned last night is that Jack and I can learn from each other. So, maybe you and I can, too.