The Child Nurtures The Parent
Suddenly, gray skies melted to a pool of blue. The transformation from dark to light days happens every year around Sunboy’s birthday. Late March is the threshold of Spring in New England, and only a few snowstorms in memory were brave enough to venture into April.
Sunboy’s birth seems to have solidified this seasonal trend, and – for us – his birthday has marked our annual reprieve from grayness.
This year, Sunboy’s birthday coincided with Easter. It was a rare intersection of beautiful weather and children dressed pristinely for Easter. After months of less-than-satisfying photos in low light, I ushered the children outside to capture the occasion. Of course, they were excited to be outside for reasons other than photography, and Flowergirl quickly ran down the hill to play.
“Oh no,” I said. “Come back and sit with your brother so I can take pictures of you!”
By the time I had retrieved her, Sunboy was playing with sticks and rolling onto his back to gaze at the sky.
“Sit up, please, just for a minute. You’re showing your sister the wrong thing to do.” Flowergirl looked at Sunboy and picked up a twig.
My arm-waving was ineffective. It was like herding kittens and the kittens refused to be herded. It had been a long morning for them already and Flowergirl was due for her afternoon “quiet time” (she no longer took naps). I stood, camera in hand, incredulous that I was missing this opportunity to photograph the children dressed up, outside, in perfect light. The ornamental pear tree snickered at the spectacle and looked on.
Worst of all, no one seemed to understand my frustration. “Imagine the Superbowl in the next room,” I said to my husband, “only you’re not allowed to watch it.” I have little interest in sports, but it was the closest comparison I could conjure for my sports-loving husband. So close and yet so far.
Sunboy noticed my frustration. And then he surprised me. He calmly came up to me and said, “Maybe you can’t have a photo of us now, but you can have this instead” and gave me a big hug.
He was a year older, but when did he grow up? He was nurturing me as I have nurtured him so many times. Instead of Sunboy having a tantrum, this time I was having a tantrum. I felt embarrassed, humbled and proud, all at the same time. After all, parenthood tends to evoke complicated emotions.
When children nurture the parent it’s unclear when and how the roles switched. Children learn more from our behaviours than our words. When my children are frustrated and ready to be consoled, we hug each other and talk. Apparently, Sunboy has learned how to take care of a loved one by watching the way we care for him. These non-verbal lessons say more than words. Soon I remembered that small disappointments aren’t so bad when someone we love offers open arms.
Kat Lehmann believes we are all in the process of becoming and have a choice in what we become. She is a scientist who writes prose poetry about parenting and nature, and can be found sneaking outside to look at the moon when not keeping up with her children Sunboy and Flowergirl. You can connect with her at http://www.nurturingandnature.