The pool season has begun on Kibbutz Hannaton.
Many parents (including myself) bring food up to the pool and share it with others.
Yesterday, I brought some goodies from home including some delicious, ripe cherries.
Everyone went wild.
Teenagers approached me with, “Can I have some?”
Young children approached me with, “I want some, please.”
Toddlers approached me by holding out their hands and saying, “Please.”
And of course, I shared (happily) with one and all.
I even gave seconds to those who returned for more.
But, I found myself having an issue with one child.
Who (for whatever reason, apparently even his own parents don’t understand) is afraid to ask me for anything.
And apparently, I’m not supposed to take it personally.
It’s not me.
It’s him (the parents tell me).
That is, he’s afraid to ask for things from any other adult (when his parents are present).
When his parents are around, he’s afraid to ask for things on his own.
When his parents are not around, he’s another child completely… happy, care-free, and confident.
It’s a recurring behavior that I’ve noticed and to be honest, I’ve started to get annoyed by it.
Why does his parent have to approach me with a somewhat slow and baby-ish voice, “Shira, our son is really scared to ask for cherries (or crackers, or popcorn, or carrots, or anything else) that you’re offering. So, I’m asking for him. Can he have some, please?”
And, I always acquiesce.
I always put my judgmental thoughts to the side.
Because, well, I’m not his parent.
And, I’m certainly not going to parent him in front of his own parents.
When after round 2, the father approached me (once again in that baby-ish, pleading tone), “Shira, my son would really like more. Can he have some, please?”
“REALLY???” I responded, which probably came across quite obnoxious.
“Really?” I looked at the kid.
“I think you can ask me for some more cherries,” I encouraged him. “I’m your friend. I sometimes babysit for you. You play with my children. I’m your mom’s friend. We live next door to each other! You’re in my house all the time! For sure you don’t have to ask your mom or dad to ask for you for some cherries.”
“Why don’t we give it a try?” I suggested.
“I’ll count to 3, and you just say, ‘please’ and then I’ll give you some cherries.”
All I got in return was a quizzical look.
But, I counted anyway.
And at 3, when he didn’t respond, I encouraged him to try again.
But, he just turned his head away from me (trying to win this battle, are ya? I thought to myself).
So, I walked away. (This’ll make him learn, I thought to myself.)
I gave out more cherries to those who wanted (and asked!).
And then, only a few cherries remained.
I felt badly for what I did.
So, I returned to the child.
And told him I came back specifically to give him the remaining cherries, if he wanted them.
But, that I didn’t know.
Until he asked.
I gave him a few seconds to ask, but then he just started bawling and crying to his father to ask for him.
And while the father was trying to get to the bottom of this, my child (who hadn’t had any cherries yet, asked for some and I allowed him to take the few that were left).
So, in other words, the boy was left with nothing.
(Though, don’t forget, he already had 2 handfuls.)
I left the scene leaving two confused parents and one hysterical little boy behind.
And as I walked home, I questioned what the heck I just did.
Did I do the right thing?
Or, was my “parenting-ego” in the way and I just totally screwed up?
So, I Stopped and took a deep breath.
I Told myself how I was feeling and checked what may be Underneath it all (frustrated with this child’s recurring behavior.)
And considered if I could have Chosen another perspective:
- That perhaps the parents are working through this issue with their son;
- That perhaps the parents don’t mind asking for things for their child;
- That perhaps the parents have no clue to the source of this behavior, but believe it’s going to pass soon enough and so they’re consciously not making a big issue about it;
- That perhaps it’s not my role to parent other children, when their parents are right by their side.
Had I gone through this stuck process then, I know I wouldn’t have made a big deal out of this scene in the first place (just like I haven’t done over the past few months with this same child) and I would’ve just given the cherries to the boy when the father approached me for the third time.
So, last night I sent a letter to the parent apologizing for my behavior and acknowledging that it would have been best had I not said a thing and just handed the cherries to their son when he requested.
I acknowledged that I was just trying to help out, but realized that I was really just imposing my parenting style on him, which wasn’t right.
I was nervous about the response, but actually was relieved and delighted to learn that my friend not only accepted my apology, he encouraged me not to worry about it. He thanked me for caring enough to write such an email and reinforced that they (as parents) are purposefully not making a big deal out it, believing that when he’s ready, he’ll ask on his own.
One of the things that I’m learning most about this STUCK process is that no matter how many times I catch myself, no matter how many times I reflect on what happens in my life with a sense of honesty and awareness, the opportunities for getting stuck don’t diminish. They’re always out there. Everyday. Several times a day at a minimum. I just need to keep practicing to wake up to them in order to learn how not to react to them in an automatic fashion.
And so, again, I take some dedicated time to just sit.
And do nothing else.
So that when these moments arise, I can feel comfortable with that familiar place of non-reacting/non-doing.
And acknowledge the many benefits that this practice brings to this world.