Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Teach Me

"You don't understand me," she sobbed. "Nobody listens." Sydney, age 10 years, 7 months was stretching her preteen independence. Suddenly years slipped away, and I was once more in the same room with Syd's mother, each of us trying to out yell the other.

Again the words, "You don't understand me." Only this time I was transported even farther back fighting with my mom. Back then I wanted her attention, the attention that was never quite there. But it was too late. She didn't understand. She never would. I hated my parents then. They were stuck in another generation, a time where there were no resources for parents in dealing with youth. Scars were made that never quite healed. I went on to be a parent who didn't know how to parent.

When I went to work in the theatre at the high school after we moved to Oregon, I began to learn. The physically abused, the molested, the suicidal, the typical teen all seemed to find their way to my door. I often thought I should have just posted a sign outside of the office that said "Mom". Since I was a volunteer and not a school employee, I think the kids felt safer coming to me. We talked and if needed, I connected them with a counselor and on occasion even called their parents.

I learned my parenting lessons from these children. I learned from the buises of the body and of the heart. I learned from their words about their parents and by listening to their needs. It was a learning curve that has carried to this time.

Sydney sat crying angry at me. Not really knowing why. Angry at me, angry at her parents who divorced this year, angry at feelings she didn't understand. At age 10, she hurt deeper than she had ever before. It was new to her.

I walked over to the sofa and knelt by her. I put my hand on hers, "You're right. I don't understand. I did go through what you are going through at your age, but that doesn't mean I understand the way you feel." She slightly softened her tight frame. "I want to understand, but I need you to teach me how and tell me what you need for me to do." She fell into my arms hugging me and crying. The worst was past, and we had a start over.

Lean not on what you know. Lean on what you can learn.

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