Earlier this week, we were having a dinner table conversation led by my husband about Not Judging a Book by its Cover – not judging people – understanding that everyone has a story. We may not ever know what drives a person, but we have to give space, give grace, and give a level of tolerance knowing that people are acting out their experience. Sometimes a person may look like they are behaving badly, and yet, if we knew their story, we would understand that they are behaving the only way they know how to behave.
Scott gave the example of Helen Keller, who was a wild child who could not be controlled – but how could one behave who could not see or hear? What manner of hell would that be? I got caught up in the moment of trying to sit in the space of her mother. I looked across the table at Benjamin and said, “What would it be like for me to never be able to look you in the eyes and tell you I love you? What if you couldn’t hear my words, and you couldn’t see the love in my eyes? What if I couldn’t communicate that to you?” As I looked at him, both our eyes were swimming with tears.
It was a heavier conversation than we intended, I’m sure. Scott can always be counted on to bring it back to the fun, the silly, the laughing at the table over farts or burps, but we had that moment, Ben and I.
The next night, Scott and Ben were over at Grandpa and Grandma’s for quite some time. Bean and I spent after dinner together. We read some stories, and then we went for a bike ride down the driveway together. Bean talks constantly. No really. There is never a break in the monologue. He was telling me how lucky he was to have me as a mom, and I responded with how lucky I am to be his mom. He reinforced it by reminding me that he is much more snuggly than Ben. Ben will hug, but Bean will snuggle, and Bean knows I need that. He knows he has a special place in my heart.
Tonight, we were watching So You Think You Can Dance together, as normal for a Tuesday night in the summer. We all love the artistry, the stories behind the choreography, the pathos, the drama. During one of the commercial breaks, there was a News Update about another school shooting in Georgia.
My heart stopped. We just did all our school clothes shopping today. Both my boys are so excited for school to start. Our show came back on and we lost ourselves in it, although at the back of my mind, I knew we would get to the end of the dance show, the news would come on, and I would need to talk to my boys about what they had seen.
I reached out to Facebook friends as our dance show was in between numbers. How am I supposed to parent through this? How am I supposed to send my boys to school when I know there are people who make bad decisions everywhere?
The news came on, and no one had been hurt (this time), and they quickly moved to what is being done in our local schools to insure our children’s safety. I turned the television off. Bean was snuggled into my side, and snoring. Ben needed to talk.
I couldn’t rightfully tell him that nothing bad would ever happen. Instead I told him that there are people in the world who make bad choices, who do things that put themselves and other people in danger. Sometimes those people are acting out of fear or out of their own bad circumstances. They might have a lot of pain in their life, a lot of loss, a lot of confusion and hurt. We don’t always know. But what we do know is that our world, our family, our home is filled with love. That is what we know. That is what we hold onto.
His school will talk about safety. He will be told exactly how to respond to a threat. He will know to follow his teacher’s direction, to be very quiet and listen, and be very alert. That is on the scary side.
On the proactive side, we should always be alert, but not just for danger. We should be alert to someone who is hurting. We may not always be able to help. We may not know enough to be able to intervene. But we can always treat the people around us with love and kindness. That might help someone who is hurting more than we can ever know.
Ben shared some fears and concerns. We talked. We kept getting back to the fact that we are loved. I told him that love is the most powerful force in the universe. Being loved, being surrounded by love, makes us very powerful. That power is to be used for good. It is a very special power – like the power Harry Potter had. It wasn’t because he was magical. Heck – he didn’t even know he was magical. He was loved by his mother and father, and that love shielded and protected him and made him invincible.
Then I made him cry for the second time in one week. I told him how I’d always wanted to be a mom. I was 36 years old when I finally got married, and 37 years old when I had Benjamin. The day I took him home from the hospital is right up there as one of the greatest moments of my life. I love all four of my boys with all my heart. They each have a part of me, a part of my heart. Ben has that he was the one I got to take home from the hospital when I didn’t think that would ever happen for me. Bean was a special kind of surprise and I got to be a 40-year old mama for him. Michael and Joey are my older boys, and they each get to me and make me cry for joy that they are in my life.
Tonight I told Benjamin about carrying him out of the hospital, and how much that meant to me. We both sat there sobbing and wiping tears. I told him that we never know what kind of crazy we might face out there in the world. If something happens at his school, his teachers will do everything they can to look after him and protect him, and he should listen and do exactly what he is told. But, in the end, he is protected by the fierce and powerful love of a mom who waited her whole life to meet him.
There is terror in the streets. There is uncertainty everywhere. But here in this home, there is love.
Peace be upon us.
photo from here