I am on leave at the moment, which means I have a lot of time on my hands to up my momentum on my life journey. It has been an insightful week, with many breakthroughs. I have been sifting through these to decide what to write about, and although each of the breakthroughs are significant, I don’t feel that they are ready to be shared. I had many epiphanies but now need to practice and apply them first. As I’m processing through my thoughts I’m finding a couple of things that happened in both my and Leon’s lives this week that prompted us to think ‘why even bother’.
Specifically two events come to mind.
Cassidy’s boyfriend will have to return to France next year because his father’s work contract is expiring. She is considering whether it is possible for her to go with him to France. Barring the logistics and legal restrictions that she will soon face, and the probability that she will not be able to move there, the fact that she is considering leaving the home we’re giving her still has significance because of the principality of it. Facts are that we are providing her a home, not only to cater for her physical needs, but also emotional and mental needs. The next fact is that she has the free will to decide that despite everything we are giving her, to leave. Whether she wants to go to France, whether she turns 18 and decides she wants to move out, whether she decides to stay around till she can support herself and then leave, or her mother may rehabilitate herself and she leaves to go back home to her biological mother. My initial knee jerk reaction was that after everything we’ve given her in the short period of time she’s been with us, is this how we are thanked? However, there are a couple of other facts we need to consider as well. She has never been in one place for an indefinite period of time. Since childhood she has been jumping from one house to the next – her parents, then grandparents, then an uncle, then back to parents, then a prep school teacher, then parents, then best friend, and so the list continues. Settling isn’t normal for her, and maybe subconsciously in her mind she is busy preparing for the next jump. Her belief system might indicate that the time for her next move is coming, and like all other people in her life, we will also pass her on to the next willing taker. She is also used to rejection from even her own parents, it is ‘normal’ to her. Again subconsciously she may be creating this rejection for herself. The only thing we can do is show her that we will fight for her to stay, but we will not keep her against her will. The biggest fact of all however is that she doesn’t owe us anything, she doesn’t have to stay. We invited her into our house, and as parents we commit to love her, unconditionally. She doesn’t owe us anything, probably the hardest lesson I’m learning from parenthood.
My decision to take leave was based on the opportunity for me to bond with Cassidy while she is on holiday, and provide her support with things she has been struggling with the past couple of weeks. I made a list of activities we could do together. The first couple of days of her holiday she had a friend over, and I quickly realised that having friends over = parents don’t exist, not even for a good night hug. Once Sue went home, I shared the activities I had in mind with her. She didn’t show even a glimmer of excitement. In fact now that I think it, she didn’t even sound excited when I told her I’ll be on leave and at home while she is on holiday. I asked her what she wants to do during her and my time off, and not much came up. In fact she is already organising for Sue to come over again so she has company. I took this one a lot more personally, like a slap in the face as if her response meant that she has no interest in bonding with me. Again there are some facts I need to consider. She is a teenager, spending time with mom the whole holiday isn’t exactly high up on her list of priorities. In her life, she is used to spending most of her time in front of TVs, playing games on Play Stations or Wii etc., browsing Facebook and YouTube. To her Adventure Time and the Simpsons rank much higher than cooking or going to a fancy dress store to just try on goofy outfits. Don’t get me wrong, we have been spending lots of time together, but just not how I expected to. She also shared with me that as a single child she is used to keeping herself busy, so she didn’t expect for us to do things together – another fact I didn’t even know of.
In both of these events, and a couple more this week, I realised that sometimes we take things too personal. Cass can threaten to leave, and we can decide to stop caring. But she’s not considering it because she doesn’t want us to care, it is because of her beliefs and where her head space is. I can decide to cancel my leave because she doesn’t want to do my list, or I can be there and see what she would like to do. And if it means we bond, awesome. If not, at least I’m taking a holiday! Similarly in situations with other people. Leon can bark at me when I do or say something, but it could be because what I said has stirred a belief in him that is not an issue to me. Must I then change who I am and not do it again? Not necessarily. Other people’s reactions aren’t always directed towards us, it comes from their own personal place of hurt. Should we always turn away and think: “It’s not me, it’s you”. I don’t believe we should. I believe that as we get to know people we can start opening conversations to understand where it comes from and support each other.
I have also learnt from Leon this morning that we should take ownership of our part of the situation and decide if we would like to approach it different next time, or if we are happy with our part.
But before we can do that, we need to stop taking things personally. We all want acceptance, which is why we take it personal. ‘Maybe that person is now going to love me less because I made them angry’. ‘Maybe I am not showing her enough love and caring because she doesn’t want to spend time with me’. ‘Maybe I need to stop being so spontaneous so I don’t embarrass him again’. Sound familiar?
I say – maybe I should take more time to get the other person’s perspective before assuming it is something I did. Maybe, just maybe, that person needed to get angry to realise they have something they need to work through, and they will thank you later…