I don’t know why I said it that first time.
Well I do but it’s a long, drawn-out story that you might just not have the time for. See I think about things like that – things like if you’re going to land here, how long can you afford to hang around? I always underestimate on purpose. It makes me feel like I’m somehow under-promising and over-delivering.
That way I’m pleasantly surprised that you (a) came here at all and (b) stayed long enough to read the whole thing. Does that even make any sense at all or should I have kept that inside my head?
Anyway, back to that first time I told Deaglan it was important to love himself. You should have seen him; he cocked his head to the side, giggled and said,
“That sounds silly Mommy.”
We were having a rough morning; I was tired and he was not listening. By about the fifth time-out in two hours, my voice hoarse from yelling, guilt crept in and reminded me that he was four, to cut him some slack. I forced myself down to his level, grabbed his chin to direct his gaze and told him that even when we’re mad at each other, we need to remember that we love each other.
“Even when Mommy is acting upset with you because you’re not listening or doing something naughty, I want you to know that I love you and that you’re still a good boy. And more importantly I want you to remember to love yourself.”
“Love myself?” he laughed at the notion. “That sounds silly!”
“It’s not silly at all. You need to love yourself all the time.”
I tried to find four year-old words to explain it.
“Because you’ll always have yourself even when you’re a big man and don’t live with Mommy and Daddy anymore, you will always have yourself and it’s important to love yourself and know that you're a good person.”
“Okay Ma.” And off he went.
It was a rare and shining moment for me. My naive mother heart reasoned that maybe I could cushion his teens and twenties a little if I let him in on this life lesson now. Maybe he wouldn't spend as many years as I did, at odds with himself, led by the need for approval.
“Toni Morrison said, "The function of freedom is to free someone else," and if you are no longer wracked or in bondage to a person or a way of life, tell your story. Risk freeing someone else. Not everyone will be glad that you did. Members of your family and other critics may wish you had kept your secrets. Oh, well, what are you going to do?
― Anne Lamott
Something has shifted inside me this last year. Tiny bits floating on the horizon, easily mistaken for dust or nothing at all if it weren't for my searching. Whisperings really. Telling me that I am loved, all of me even when circumstances convince me that I'm unacceptable, failing. Mediocre.
It can't be that easy though, can it? Passing these hard won lessons to my boys?