Miss Williams looked satisfied in her mean, pinched way. “Well,” she said, “ta-ta.” (She always said “ta-ta” instead of “goodbye.” Chicken language, it sounded like.)
As soon as Miss Williams was gone and my mother was sitting down again, I burst into tears. Kneeling on the floor, I buried my head in her lap and poured out the whole miserable story. My mother could see that I really wasn’t in one piece after all, so she listened quietly, stroking my hair as I talked, but gradually I could feel her stiffen. I knew she was remembering that she was a Mother.
-Homesick by Jean Fritz, p. 27
Jean Fritz…you hit that nail on the head. I was so stunned to be called out in the middle of your charming memoir that I dog-eared the corner and haven’t stopped thinking about it. I’ve done that very ‘mother stiffening’ hundreds of times. I am leaning into my child. I am comforting them- right there with them. I am listening with my whole soul. And then Professor Example shows up with Professor Teaching Moment to hijack my heart. But, whew! because then I don’t have to worry about taking off my shoes and running with my child (The Anatomy of Peace, The Arbinger Institute). These awesome professors have taught me to just straighten my back and show that child what they could do better next time to handle this situation like a well-bred adult.
I am trying to unenroll myself from that university course but every time I try to leave, the professors bar the doorway, “What will become of your children if you’re not always taking the moral high road?” “Oh, I don’t know?? They might turn into human beings like myself??!! Furthermore, Herr Professors, I have discovered recently that my best efforts to conceal my humanness from my children has not worked. Somehow it leaked out all over them and they are turning out to be humans too.” (Nice humans, by the way.)
I am finding that perhaps preferable to ‘trying to be an example’ and ‘looking for those teaching moments’ is finding my own path to wholehearted human living and then inviting them to join me. I can see that along the way there are lots of chances for them to say, ‘I like where you are’ or ‘tell me how you got there’. Or not. As a side note, these moments NEVER happen with me and my kids in the middle of chaotic living. They ALWAYS happen at midnight when I want to sleep or at 4 pm when I want to read- always, always when I am still and quiet. Stand still, Human Sarah. Loosen up, Mama Slade.