Quiet “Connections”

This past winter, we sent our oldest away to camp for the first time. He had been asking for it all spring, and was due to start in the summer, but it was super busy for us, and truth be told, I wasn’t ready to send my baby overnight for an entire week yet. He’d just turned ten and I wanted to hold the end of this decade a little closer. It was a whole hour and fifteen minutes from our house, but to me, it seemed I was casting him away to the other side of the planet. Dramatic much?

It ended up to be a great week for him and for me. He got to talk Fortnite with boys his age, decided what he ate at meals, used a cell phone to stay in touch with me (only 3 numbers were saved on it), and got to live and breathe the sport he loves. After camp, he was able to rub in his brother’s face that he had so much fun without him. He could tell his teammates that he learned amazing things and was so money on the field now. It doesn’t have to be true outside of his head, of course.

I learned that my house is super quiet when he’s not home. He’s the energy of our family, second to me. We are both “high energy” as my husband calls it, prone to drama, but I didn’t know how much he contributed until he left. Energy entails kinetics and sound, both things my son has an abundance of and I don’t receive it all well all the time, even though I put it out there myself. Like doesn’t always dissolve like. I love my son, but I don’t always like him or the energy he puts out because it can be overwhelming combined with my own. I realized I have to tune mine down so he can flourish, because he hasn’t learned to harness his yet. Truth to be told, neither have I, but I’m hoping he will learn to edit/conserve energy where his mother hasn’t.

On a recent trip home afterschool, he asked me about a sexual term. My default setting is “Divert” when I don’t want to do or to discuss. And I realized during my son’s absence that I do that a lot. I needed to tune down so he could tune up.

“So what made you think about this?” Calm down, calm down, calm down.

“Oh, my friend was talking about it.” Matter of fact, not being a jokester or anything.

“Where do you think he heard about it?” Genuine curiosity, but wondering if I need to call this kid’s mom.

“I don’t know. But he said it means ‘cat.’ So it’s okay to say.” Okay, definitely call the other kid’s mom later and internal “Oh my God!”.

Ensue the appropriate terminology for female anatomy, which WAS comfortable for us because we’ve always correctly named body parts. We took this opportunity to also discuss what is and isn’t appropriate to say, which is what 50% motherhood is spent doing. The conversation took maybe 7 minutes while the other kids fought over elbow room in the backseat--the other half of what motherhood is spent refereeing.

I don’t appreciate quiet enough. Or maybe I do, but I definitely don’t practice it enough. Just by holding space for my kids and letting them poke at uncomfortable or foreign things to work through them together, I can open opportunities for connection I didn’t know were possible. This is not something I learned growing up because “We don’t say that” or “We don’t do that” were the responses to questions or comments we had as children. What is “holding space” anyway? It’s just swallowing the “Oh my God” and “What were you thinking” that naturally escapes my lips, and assuming a position instead of, “Tell me about that.” As kids, we just wanted to know stuff sometimes, or work things out loud, and we needed sounding boards. To just be heard if not understood. I’m just now figuring this out, and trying to adjust my ears to fit my kids, to adjust the space for their comfort rather than my own. I just didn’t know how to do it, and it turns out, it’s as easy as “shut up.” The appropriate thing to say is “be quiet,” which is what I teach the kids, promise! Here’s to quieter connections and tuning in the littles; have fun practicing.

Zaiba Hasan