I had a dream recently in which I was watching one of my children writhing in pain and my “teacher” was explaining that despite what this looked like and my desire to ease her, if I could refrain from taking away her pain, she had the opportunity to discover a way to do it herself and possibly expand the techniques available to all of us. “She has chosen this, do not curtail her creativity”, I was told.
Unusually for me, I remembered this dream after I woke up, and it was all too clear what it pertained to. I am the MOM, I know all the Answers and it has always been my job to ‘make it better’. Until, of course, my children became adults who have progressively made it clear that I don’t have all the answers for their lives and would I kindly learn how to be supportive instead of in charge. The nice part about this lesson is that it is also applicable to everyone else I know, or might come to know, or even ones I don’t know, but who co-exist on this planet with me.
To make the lesson easier to relate to, let’s pretend that that other person is untangling a big knot in a rope. It is challenging, frustrating, sometimes to the point of setting it aside for awhile, but when it is done it is an accomplishment to be proud of, and has shown them, perhaps, some of the rules governing the fine art of untangling. If I insist that they hand it over because I am really good at untangling ropes, what have they gained? Some free time?, a sense of impotence?, another occasion when they failed to be ‘good enough’?
I am available as a resource when they want my advice or skills. Asking for help is also a skill one must learn sometime. If I can trust that this person has the skills, or the right to learn the skills needed to overcome this situation, I might be delighted to find there are ways of untangling ropes that I didn’t know, perhaps no one ever used before!
I saw a church marquee that said, “Children need more models than critics”, which is true and good. That still leaves me wondering how to be supportive rather than just detached. So I think back to the times in my life when a friend gave me just what I needed. I find that what worked best was when they said something like, “Yeah, that’s hard. I take comfort knowing this is just the sort of thing you’re good at. You always work it out and I am always impressed by how you do it.” They gave me a vote of confidence that didn’t sound like a platitude, because they meant it.
I am better prepared now to see the ways in which my children, or others, are perfectly suited to solve the riddles their lives pose them, because, after all, they set themselves up for it by making the choices that got them there in the first place! As I have in my life also. It’s just a knot in the rope, and I can’t wait to see how they untangle it…