a new mantra

Her words sank in and offered me a whole new way of looking at things. Previously I would have seen my shortcomings, my failures as a mother. On top of that I would have inflated the emotions of my son to eclipse anything else.

Now I saw an opportunity to empower him.

I find it so amazing how just one little thing, just one little sentence can turn a light on in a room I didn’t even realize was dark.

But Zachary, you did just the right thing, didn’t you? You called out and mom heard you and you found each other. You took care of yourself.”

This was new.

Not the chatty mom who made a pit-stop on our way out of school. My poor children are quite accustomed to my tendency to find and stop at any opportunity to have a meaningful connection with someone.

But when I make such a pause and my children are young enough to not realize this and they keep going, they loose me. They look around and mom has mysteriously disappeared. Panic may set in to their small little hearts.

Thus what happened to Zachary this day. And when his nervous holler for mom found it’s way to my ears, I responded how I always did. “I’m so sorry, honey! I stopped and didn’t tell you. You must have been scared. I am so sorry.” Because, of course, this is all about me and how terrible I am.

But then she affirmed my son and his ability to find his way out of a sticky situation.

He took care of himself. Wow. That is something that has taken me almost 40 years and a lot of therapy to do. And my then three-year-old did it without even really thinking about it.

Children solve problems. All the time. And I WANT my children to be problem solvers. I want them to know how capable they are. But I realized in this moment that sometimes I take away their natural problem solving skills because I am so wrapped up in my own self.

This became my new mantra. My eyes were opened to how my children solve problems all the time, all over the place. And I could point that out to them. So that then they know they have this very important skill. And hopefully it grows.

Advertisements

mantras

Her comments struck me. I was hit with an ah-hah and a rush of relief all at once. I am not alone.

A few moms gather chatting on the playground with our younger kiddos after the olders have been safely swept away into their classrooms. We join together not everyday, but many. There is a certain ritual about it. And honestly, it helps me breathe.

Not because we have such profound conversation while our children run and play. We slur our way through most of it while the coffee kicks in. I am settled in my soul simply because we are together. There is so much extraordinary in ordinary life, if only I see it and let it in.

Out of my mouth came one of the phrases I often find coming out of my mouth toward my children and I expressed the frustration of repeating myself to my friends. When will they learn?

The camaraderie was a warm blanket set on my shoulders as we all related together. And then one of my friends used the word “mantra”. Comfort gave way to peace.

It was as if Legos I had been trying to force together the wrong way had just been straightened out and the puzzle was solved. They clicked.

These things I repeat over and over to my children, they are not just for them. They are not things that can be mastered in one day, one week, one childhood, or even one lifetime. They are learnings of life. They are things that no one ever masters, not my children and not me, but we all simply continue to learn through the process of life.

They are things we need to hear over and over and over again because they are truths easily forgotten. Easily misunderstood. Easily cast aside.

They are in fact, mantras. Things that help us as we chant them over and over. And I realize in this moment that I need to hear these mantras just as much as my children do. Because I want them to become a part of me. But I am not the only exacerbated parent who tires of chanting from time to time.

Every family has different mantras. Some help us, some beat us down. Sometimes the difference between the two is all in the delivery or the interpretation. God, help my tone of voice breathe life into my family instead of shame.

Everyone has say over their own bodies.

We don’t get to make other people’s choices for them.

Listen to your body, it tells us some of the things we need.

Love is not earned.

It’s okay to think different things.

Our choices affect our future.

Outside energy is a good energy to have, it just belongs outside.

Everyone feels disappointed when we don’t get our way. But it’s also important to learn how to move on with life afterward.

Those are some of my favorite mantras from the Koo family, but I am curious…..what are yours?

out of africa

Am I making a fool of myself? The question frequently haunts me when I am writing or talking with people.

But my belief in the beautiful, mysterious good that happens when people are vulnerable with one another always wins over my need to save face.

So I jumped off the cliff and dove headlong into the conversation.

Even still, this felt riskier than usual. I wasn’t just sharing my feelings or my experiences. In fact, I was completely void of experience in this area. And they were drenched in it.

The girls I was talking to were from Malawi, Africa. They were here on an internship with an organization I am a part of.

Confession time. I long to go to Africa someday. Badly. In a way that tells me I will go to Africa. But I hardly ever talk about it. I don’t know the how or the when but my gut tells me it will come about in just the right way, at just the right time.

Can they tell how much I want to know them? Can they see how much I long to go to the place where they are from? Can they sense my hope to get just a sliver, a crumb of Africa inside of me through them?

All these questions raced through my head as I chatted with the young women.

I think Africa has something to offer the world. I don’t know what it is exactly, but it is something mysterious and invaluable. And I spilled to these girls what I have believed for a long time but until then had never told a soul.

I believe there is a spirit in Africa. A facet of the Spirit of God uniquely and abundantly thriving in Africa. The spirit of Africa. And I think this spirit gets inside the people who go there. And it changes them. I’ve seen it. 

The girls ask me how this spirit makes people different. I can tell they know what I am talking about but they want to hear me say it. Suddenly I was aware of the throbbing in my chest and the heat of blood in my cheeks.

What if I am getting this all wrong? What if I offend them? This is their homeland I am talking about.

But slowly I find the words. I think this spirit helps people see what is important in life. I think this spirit of Africa frees people. It frees them into life. “Does that make sense?” I ask them. I think I might be speaking gibberish.

Yes. I can feel their hearts affirm with their words. They see it too. I am not crazy. Now I have spoken it and I have seen them agree with it. And now the ache inside of me has grown bigger and stronger and even more painful than before.