After dinner the other night we all huddle around to play a game before bedtime routine. Honestly, this isn’t my most favorite time of day as I’m an early riser and I tend to be begging for bed long before everyone else in our house. But, it’s one of the few moments in our day when we are all together so I participate.
There’s rarely much small talk with Ava, she gets right to it. After asking her about her day, she shares with me how much she enjoys writing in her journal. As a fan of writing myself, I love to hear this. Ava’s teacher inspired each child to write about anything on their mind, things they love and things they dislike. I love this exercise because I believe kids deserve permission to say (and write) all the things they are feeling. Then she says it. “Mom, I wrote that I don’t like when brother takes my things and I wrote that I don’t like that my mom is always on her phone." I hold my breath, literally, as I feel the shame wash over me.
Yes, of course my first thought was how embarrassed I am for her teacher to read this and know this about me. I feel completely violated and humiliated as I am trying to quiet the response I began formulating in my head, a defense to this shameful accusation. In my mind, I am somewhere between “your college fund” and “a woman’s right to a career”—and it’s escalating quickly.
Asking more questions is what saves me, buying time as I return to being the adult. It felt like torture encouraging her to tell me how badly I sucked. She is still talking, still sharing as I am barely holding on to the bit of good that is coming from this (biting my tongue).
It’s all I can do to keep myself quiet and listen. It’s horrible, really. I want to curl up in a ball and go to bed. But, she’s still talking. When she finishes, I want to rehash it so badly but don’t want to undo what we had just done.
The more they talk, the more they share and the safer they feel….
In the bathroom blow-drying my hair, at the park, on the deck while they play, in line at the grocery store, the in between moments while cooking dinner, I disconnect from the present moment, from them. "Mom, you took Facebook off your phone but you can still Google it." Ouch. Is it really that bad? She sees me. Moving quickly through the denial stage, conviction sets in and I want to cry.
How I choose to respond matters more right now.
I apologize to her with no excuse or explanation, no defense or justification—just I’m sorry and a promise to do better. Holding those moments of silence with her that follow is a challenge.
After some brief time alone, she crawls in bed next to me. She knows what I need most in this moment. She doesn’t say anything more about it, carrying on with bedtime as if nothing had happened. I love her resilience, her ability to accept, forgive and move on.
What’s changed? I’m trying to respond differently to all the noise. Overcome the temptation to stay on top of email, text messages, and Facebook. I’ve started leaving my phone in my purse when I make the transition home in the evening. I leave my phone downstairs when I get ready in the morning. I set an expectation and communicate more clearly when I do need to handle an email or phone call. Is it difficult to maintain the discipline? Absolutely. The difference is we talk about it and I say it out loud. I own it when I recognize I’ve been distracted. We all agree with how we want it to be and we do our best to make it happen.
She humbles me; she calls me on my stuff. And, she is transparent. She talks to me. She is not afraid to be honest with me. I wouldn’t trade this part for anything and I trust these experiences to shape and inspire the relationship we will share in the years ahead.