Wednesday, February 07, 2007

what part of "no" don't i understand?

He stood at the top of the hill, leaning against the guardrail with the nonchalant air of an adolescent, not even glancing my way as he spoke to me. “No, I don’t want to. Not today. Maybe next year.” His tone was clear and even—no trace of the soprano tremolo that usually indicated he was upset or wound up. I tried again.

“Come on, Buddy. Sit right here—try it just once.”

His voice was firm. Matter-of-fact, even. Not a voice I was used to hearing out of this child’s mouth. “No, I don’t want to. I just don’t want to. Maybe next year.” His words didn’t even register. I tried again, my friend joining me this time. “Come on, Buddy—just one time. You’ll like it.”

“No, I just don’t want to.” Were it not for my friend’s daughter inadvertently starting my down the hill alone, I would have probably continued to press the poor child further. It was then, as I sped down the hill at full speed on some orange flyer advertised to break several bones in one fateful trip, that I finally realized the idiocy of what I was doing.

I don’t like sledding.

Neither does my son.

So why was I trying to force us both to fly down this hill?

I teach my children to assert themselves, and then I don’t listen when they do. I tell them to listen to my “No,” then I railroad over theirs. What was I thinking?

I was thinking of my own fear, and of having lived a life paralyzed by it. I was thinking of the things I’d missed as a result, and the regrets that accompany them. I was thinking about my struggles as I’ve lived my life on the sidelines, watching my husband and my daughter soar and fly and climb and run while I stand by, both feet firmly on the ground. I was thinking about ME. Fortunately, my four-year-old was not. Secure enough to speak his mind, he let me know where he stood. He stood at the top of the hill, and he was very happy to keep it that way. When will I learn to listen to my children?

“Maybe next year,” he reminded me when I returned, his sister flying by behind us for the umpteenth time. I took his hand, and we headed for the snowplow pile he’d been eager to climb since we’d arrived. “Whenever you’re ready, Buddy. Whenever you’re ready.”

Maybe next year I’ll be ready, too.


Anonymous said...

smart kid! i never liked sledding and still dont.


lorie said...

me neither! i don't know why i felt the need to prove something to myself--all it proved was that i still don't like it!

Anonymous said...

this post made me glad, that my soon to be husband, is a big kid at heart! He can take our kids someday, sledding!!!!! hehehe


lorie said...

yeah, my hubby is usually the one on sled-duty! he's a big kid, too--lucky for the kids! i'm just boring, mean ol' mom!