I have never heard my son say that he hates anyone. However one day he accused me of hating him: “You hate me”!
I equate this to the condition of the Mother. This also goes hand in hand with the condition of the Wife. Whatever role, I expect that it is the Mother’s condition to be ridiculed, disliked, ignored, left to clean up the mess, be pushed away when offering a hug, the target of angst. I’m not saying it’s ok to do this, because as the Mother it is also her role to educate the culprit, so that as he grows up, it will happen less and less.
This is what I mean when I allude to the condition of the Mother. The one who is conditioned to serve the needs of others. When you are a Mother you subscribe to the adage of unconditional love.
And so, when another Mother called me to discuss the reason why her son, was not going to invite my son to his birthday party, I thanked her for her disclosure. (I mean what do you say to that unexpected call?) That her son had a disagreement with my son and had come to the conclusion that he did not want him at his birthday party. He also did not want my son to sit next to him in Spanish.
The Mother rationalized that it was a Dungeons and Dragons party and according to her son, my son thought that game was for nerds. My son loves playing D & D. As it was a sleep over, another thing he dislikes, yet another point to ponder, he therefore would not miss out on anything in particular. As a matter of fact, it would all work in my son’s favor. (It is true he dislikes sleepovers, for which I am most grateful) If her son changed his mind, maybe my son might attend for a couple of hours.
At first I was happy to hear from said Mother, as I had not had time to get in touch. As the conversation continued and she revealed the true nature of the call, a pain in my chest started to grate at familiarity, I was finding it difficult to breathe. Would she have protected me by staying silent? Surely she was being noble by telling me, or was it her own guilt that she wanted to protect? She needed to have a difficult conversation and so she called me, should I hear later from gossipmongers and wonder why the invitation had not been extended.
It made me think of the many times my son had not been included on the ‘friends’ birthday invitation list. I can count on one hand how many birthday parties he has been invited to in his 13 years.
I started the party routine with a demeanor of inclusivity, to be fair and equitable meant inviting everyone from his grade prep class and everyone from his grade one class. Out of 24 kids invited and attended, only one returned the favor. I learnt the politics of birthday party invitations in the third year. My value base was unique or mostly non-existent. Basically I learnt that you actually invite your child’s best friends to a birthday party, not everyone that he has ever met, it’s near impossible to include everyone.
My belief rests in generosity, that to treat others in the same way in which one wants to be treated. This equation of generosity and reciprocity has been lacking in my experience as a parent. I’ve never understood why others might find my son so repulsive, when he is the most gorgeous son in the world. I am so blessed to have him for he is the lucky egg that made it to the uterus. All the other four miscarried. And now here he is the unique gift, given to me in truth, that children are our teachers.
The condition of the Mother then extends beyond the child, for when the child is bullied, so too is the Mother.
I had been here before many times with other parents. For example, when my son was 4 years old and I had met a Mother, a ‘friend’ and her son in the park to play. She told me that my son had pushed her son and that as a result my son would never have friends. We were standing right next to them as they played and I had not see it that way. They were playing together, and her son had lost his footing.
Mother’s have this way of needing to protect their young, like a cat hissing, scratching and pissing for territory. My natural instinct then would be to advocate for my son, instead, I took the Mother a bag of clothes that I no longer needed, laundered and folded. I wrote her a card in good will, wishing her well. I wanted to help because her hair was falling out with the stress of looking after a child, studying for a degree and a broken relationship. She often spoke about how difficult it was for her. I was offering her a friendship, an ear, connection and a space for our children to play. But for some reason my son caused her more stress and I did not want to add to her adversity. The best thing to do was to leave her alone. So that’s what I did!
There was another time when I walked my son to a birthday party up the road, and left him in the capable hands of two parents. If only I had gone with them. I thought that fostering his independence was the ‘right’ thing to do. When I returned to pick him up, the kids scurried down the side of the weather-board house, hiding behind the waste bins, “Quick it’s Max’s Mum.” I thought they were playing chase, hide and seek and having fun. “ Hello”, I yelled out laughing and waving.
When I got to the door I did not realize until later that I had just walked into the aftermath of a group of boys who had targeted my son, with their NERF guns, ten boys had all turned on him shooting plastic bullets in close proximity, claiming that he had threatened the other boy. A party trick! When the bullets were exhausted their fists followed.
The parents apologetic, that they weren’t quite sure what had happened, they had not cut the cake yet, I stood smiling and wanted to hear about all the fun they were having, but my son wanted to go home and we took our leave. I started to make sense of what had happened, I started to patch things up. Asking my son questions, like each question was a band-aid seeking to cover the exposed sore, smothering the truth. He was crying, angry and defiant. I’m never ever going to a birthday party again! Spat with hurt venom. Fists clenched, back turned marching to the beat of inequity. I was responsible, because I had left him there.
I felt that my son had done something, that he had provoked it. In our absence we trust others to look out for our kids, but ultimately we are responsible. For the kids that bully, become the parents that bully and then the children and parents who are bullied.
This leads me to ask: what then do others owe us?
A smile deserves a smile.
A handshake returned with a handshake.
A ‘good morning’ then expects the eco of a passing stranger.
What about an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life?
Do I commend this bravery of disclosure or see it for what it is, an apology of sorts.
Does the conflict become the rivalry of natural selection?
To be disliked then in return dislike?
Or seek forgiveness for being who you are?
On his return from school, my son revealed that he had written a letter of apology to his friend for causing him such discomfort.
I suggested that my son was not the one who needed to apologise.
“Oh but I am really annoying”, he admitted.
Above all the lessons, in this story I seek to teach the importance of generosity.
My Nonna taught me generosity of spirit, because she was unconditionally generous. After her funeral we all gathered at her cupboard to engage in the ritual of sifting through her belongings, in search of a memory keepsake. When we opened the door, the cupboard was empty but for a few photos and three hand-sewn dresses hanging from cheap metal hangers. Is that all there is in a life? I thought.
Then another thought, one that recalled the happiness Nonna expressed whenever we were with her, I knew because I also felt it. This overwhelming warmth and security. I realized that she did not need possessions and that her family was enough. She did not hoard things, she would give them to us instead. In that moment I learnt generosity and non- attachment.
I possess a generous heart. I have no guilt for that, only happiness and a lightness of being. It’s this generosity that gives others permission to take what they want. I’ve seen it often. I let it dissolve and then seek truth, all that exists is peace, the peace that I create, which is the space that I choose.