Wednesday, June 08, 2016

The Foundation To Accepting The Word No Is Built On Emotional Honesty

I want to talk about this idea of “No” being loving. (Discussed in a previous blog entry ) I can only enter it through this wonderful journey my son has given me. 
In our house, the word No is reserved for emergency situations.  No is for the hand about to grab a block of dry ice; the hand holding a match with dangling hair above a stack very dry kindling; the careening bus coming towards the foot on the edge of a curb.  These are no’s.

We think a lot about when to say No.  No is a word to be used when the other person can be expected to understand that you have sifted through every single variation of why not and arrived at no being the only course of action. Accepting no is an act of trust. 

I want to come back to the idea of no being an act of trust.  My son and I have recently begun talking about emotional honesty. Now that he is a teenager, both of us have to work harder on remembering the bond we have forged with each other.  

For example the other day, I was doing some minor consensual maintenance in his room. I have to admit, I had other things on my mind about: the value of women’s work; the hopelessness of dusting, laundry & dishes; and the invisible ways women revolutionize the world. 

As I was leaving, I knocked over a picture frame which was a gift from a dear friend. The glass broke. I brought it out and said, “This is why I’m always re-arranging your night stand. See what happened? My dress caught the edge of the frame!”

He looked so sad. I could see him processing all the times we had talked about his aesthetics and my aesthetics. I saw him thinking about the broken picture frame.  And in that moment, I realized I was not being emotionally honest with him.

So, I took a step back.  And then I apologized. I said. “I promise to try to do better in the future. I have to be emotionally honest with you right now.  I got angry. My anger wasn’t really about you. It was about a lot of other things.  When I knocked over your picture frame, I was embarrassed.  I felt badly because I know how much that picture means to you. Rather admit my embarrassment and sadness, I tried to use our past conversations to make me “not guilty” for damaging your property.” 

He thought for a minute.  Then he said, “I understand.  I do that also sometimes.” 

And we smiled and hugged. I realized how powerful it is be in a relationship built upon emotional honesty and trust. It is powerful to be with a person you acknowledge is always growing and changing.  That this minute will be a very different from the minute yet to come. We are completely new people in every second of every day. 

For example, yesterday, we were watching a tv program together. It seemed a lot like the tv show we had watched the night before. I said so. He siad, “This is a different episode. “ So, I nodded and a few minutes later I said jokingly, “I get it, you really loved that episode and wanted to see it again. “ And then, he shouted at me.

“No. It. Is. Not. Yesterday's, episode was from the point of view of the female cast members, this episode is from the point of view from the male cast members.” 

“Sorry!” I exclaimed humbly and sorrowfully. “I can trust you. Always. I am so very sorry I wasn’t paying attention. And I am even more sorry for not being in your truth.”

“I’m sorry I yelled, Mom.” he said sheepishly. “In all emotional honesty, I think I’m having a testosterone burst.  And, I’m really nervous about going away to camp next week.”

“Wow! Yeah. Hormones can really mess with you. And so can Mamas. And so can new things, like going away for three weeks.” 

And we laughed. We went back to watching television.

So, I guess, what I am trying to say is that, all of this ability to say No rides upon a history of emotional honesty.  And emotional honesty is something you build with a person over time.  

I must always remember, I am THE woman who is EVERY women he will ever calibrate his Self against. So, I must set his eternal tone. I am in relationship, lovingly, honestly and with expectations about receiving the same. We treat each other as we wish to be treated. And we know, it is our right and our destiny to be treated thoughtfully, kindly, gently, and respectfully. This is the rule of our house.  

As I contemplate my son’s sexuality, I realize that his expectation is to be in relationship with someone who can say this is why not.   He knows that to articulate why nots is a loving way to declare a need for acceptance of why not which could also be an invitation to discussion.  I imagine his future like:

“Hey, can I kiss you?” 

“Mmm, I think I’m catching something.”  

“Oh. Then, it’s up to you. I think my immune system is pretty strong,”

“No. I don’t feel well.”

“Yeah. That’s better for both of us.  Let’s be healthy. I can wait.”

I imagine his future like this because our present is like this. We teach our sons to be in relationship by being in honest relationships. Honest relationships are fragile - like bubbles they are resilent, strong and in need of constant attention. This is Feminist parenting. 


JP Howard said...

Christina, Thank you for this post. As a mom of a pre-teen I can totally relate and also it gave me food for thought as I move through the world as a Mom/woman/friend, etc. There is so much to learn in the parenting process, no matter the age of our children. Thanks for this glimpse into the dialogue taking place in your household. Peace, JP

Christina Springer said...

Thank you so very much for reading. I do catch glimpse of JP Howard & Son out there being in a place of poetry together. So, I am very honored that we have this ability to see each other. Keep up the good work!