Friday, June 24, 2011

Under the Scab

Yesterday was William's last day of four year old preschool. I dropped him off, got back in my van, and marveled at the personal upheaval he has undergone in the last year. He went from a terrified little boy, clinging to my leg and whimpering most of the time, to a confident kid, at home in his own skin, and secure in the knowledge that he is loved and accepted.

It has not been an easy road to walk from there to here, but so worth it when I turn around and measure how far he has come. Parenting is hard, and fraught with so much self-doubt and fear, but when it goes right, it's important to stand up and notice. I'm into celebrating these days, as each milestone needs to be marked and enjoyed for the accomplishment that it is, no matter how big or small it may be.

He graduates from preschool on Tuesday, and for the last few months he has expressed fear about going into kindergarten, but vocalizing these concerns seems to be abating for him. I love that I can see my own qualities so much clearer in him now, and they are good qualities. Sure, my natural trend toward pessimism and anxiety can be frustrating, but those things also ground you in reality and help you dot all of your "i's" and cross all of your "t's".

William is thorough, like I am, and careful, and thinks things through before he commits. He takes a long time to warm up in any new situation, and fears being embarrassed more than anything else. This is a perfect picture of me as a child, and where I was in denial before and fought with him over these things, now I can look for what is most positive and helpful about these traits and help him navigate them.

I needed confidence in order to parent this child. I needed permission for my own character qualities, the good and the bad, and to be willing to own who I am before I could embrace those things in William. I think that we tend to fear what we don't understand, and when these things are buried deep in our subconscious, we panic when the scab is ripped from the wound and it hurts all over again but we don't know what is actually happening.

That's the best way I know to describe what the first three years of William's life were like for me; a constant pulling on a scab that never fully healed, and it hurt badly whenever the wound was exposed to the air and the light. And yet this pain brought me the greatest gift imaginable when I sat in a counselor's office with William, wanting to pin all of our relationship issues on him, and realized that the problem was mine. It was a moment of clarity, like a lightning bolt, where I could see what was going on under the surface, and then slowly find a way to fix it.

Gratitude is too small of a word for what I have learned through my son. I ached for what I had done to him without having any conscious idea of what I was doing, and I eventually offered forgiveness to myself. I broke down the wall I had built between me and my three year old boy, and he turned to me without any hesitation, and found I was actually there to give him what he had been looking for all along.

In healing the rift between us, he came into a deeper sense of himself and so did I. Now I can see him as he really is, and recognize the beauty in his soul, and see so many of my own qualities mirrored in him. Now that I can embrace them and own them for myself, I can help him grow into them, much earlier than I was able to. As he grows and develops, so do I, and somehow the lurching messiness of the process is inspiring.

Scabs can heal properly, but only if we allow them to. It's the easy way out to blame others and say it is someone else's fault. We all get hurt, and we all hurt others, but if we can bravely face what's festering under the scab, we can understand why it hurts so badly, and develop a plan to make it better. If we really want to grow, there is no other way. Each scab has a story to tell, and if we pay attention to that story, we have the chance to heal so it doesn't hurt every time someone nudges around that spot.

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