own self

You take care of your own self, Mom.
He hurls the words at me like handfuls of mud.
I could let frustration manifest itself in a sudden burst of my own irritability but instead take a deep breath and let his words dry so I can try to brush them off.
Having children, and being married and life in general, have taught me that love may not be something I always feel, but it is something I’ve promised to choose.
It's my job to help Tollie learn that at our house each person is responsible for their own actions and behaviors, each person is responsible for following the rules and expectations, and each person is responsible for how they respond to stressful or frustrating situations.  We all take care of ourselves, and we all take care of each other.  No one in our family can get away with changing the rules to fit their needs or feelings.  At least that's what I was trying to tell myself while I breathed deep.

His take care of your own self raised a red flag in my spirit about something though, because what are the rules?

I tell my boys, on occasion, to take care of themselves, to let so and so take care of him or her self.
But I want them to take care of others, too.  Although they aren't often exposed to it in our small, quiet neighborhood, blessedly free from much worry or want, I want both boys to consider the less fortunate.  I want helping neighbors in need to come as naturally as the next breath, for the boys to give wings to the golden rule, always.  I want them both to take a stand against violence, to be engaged  in environmental issues, to become part of the next generation of progressives.  I want them to advocate for all the things they believe in, but there are plenty of instances when I don't think it's our job to help people make the "right" decision.  Let the lady decide whether to terminate her pregnancy, let the gentlemen determine whether they want to make their marriage official on paper, allow the terminally ill person to pursue death with dignity.  Just take care of your own self.  

Wading with Tollie in the whitewater of emotion that swirls around toddlerhood, I remind myself that his energy and his confidence and his courage and his passion will serve him well for years to come.  I try to help him feel independent, but also encourage him to ask for help when he needs it.  I try to show him how to admit vulnerability, to accept help and to know that he's worth the trouble.  I want him to be kind and to show love and to do good, to truly care for others, but to take the very best care of his own self too.

Don't worry about what I'm doing, worry about why you're worried about what I'm doing...


Monique said...

Love this..I find it hard sometimes to show/teach my children this and I get frustrated when I do not see it happen in them. One day at a time I guess.

rht said...

I was probably into my thirties before I truly understood that -- on a good day -- I can control myself, my own actions and reactions. Nobody else's, ever. Sounds like those boys are well on their way to learning that very important lesson.