“When did he grow to be so tall….?”

July 3, 2009

Hi, it’s Linda here again… back from a visit with my son, Josh, and Oh, what a delicious visit it was….!

Everyone who knows me knows how much I love Josh!   He is the Great Blessing of my life…   AND, it hasn’t always been easy between us….

Let me first tell you that the dream of my life was always to have a child…   I can pinpoint the moment I knew…

One night when I was 12, I was babysitting at our neighbors’  across the street. They had a tiny baby.  I had never babysat a “real” baby before.  I thought he would sleep the whole time, but he didn’t. He cried and cried and cried – that little “new-baby-cry” that sounded like he couldn’t catch his breath.

I was afraid to touch him.

I called my mother and begged her to come over.  She did.  She went into the baby’s room, picked him up and put him on the changing table. I stood next to her as she opened his diaper. She never said a word, but she stopped for a minute and so I looked. What I saw was disgusting to my 12 year old sensibilities – the baby was raw from his waist to his knees, the diaper reeked of urine, and brown poop lay slathered over the red skin like warrior markings.

My mother started to do what I knew she knew best – taking care of children who couldn’t take care of themselves. She was ever so gentle as she cleaned that baby up. As she took care of him, he started to calm down. She put Vaseline all over him – thick layers of the stuff to block out the hurt and the pain. He stopped crying. She diapered him and picked him up. She rocked him on her shoulder, patting his back and crooning to him, until he fell asleep. She put him back in his crib.

I was in awe of her.

I decided, right then, that I was going to have a baby and I was going to be a mother just like my mother – and no child of mine was ever going to feel hurt or pain…

Ever…

And, well….  It doesn’t always go like that, does it?

For years, when Josh was little, it seemed that life was easy and happy – I joke that the three of us were like “The Three Musketeers”, always together, full of adventure and fun…

Life didn’t go on like that forever… Fred and I started to lose who we were in our marriage… we did what we did and we knew Josh had a hard time with that…

Separation and divorce are never easy for a child, no matter how old they are…

For Josh, well… he had to go through it twice…

Fred and I first separated when he was six years old. We stayed apart for two years and then we wanted to try again to make our marriage work…

The next six years were progressively painful for all of us. By the time Fred and I separated the second time, Josh was fourteen…

He chose to live with his Dad…

Since then, Josh and I have been riding a roller-coaster of emotion, trying to repair what neither of us dared to even speak of…

A pattern emerged out of the way we were together… if I said “black,” he said “white”… and then I would spend a lot of time defending “black” as if being a good mother were at stake…

Oh, we loved each other, for sure… that was never in doubt… we just weren’t always present to the love…  As a result, we didn’t have an easy, comfortable way with each other… we were both anxious, tentative, and finally…  automatic…

“Hi, Josh, it’s Mom… How’s work?”

“It’s fine. How are you?”

There would be a bit of news on either side… then…

Silence.

“Ok, Honey… I’ll let you go… I love you…!”

“Love you, too, Mom…”

Click.

When we agreed that I’d come to Minneapolis for a visit, I was determined that this time it would be different. I was committed to shift something in this relationship. I wasn’t willing to let it go on like this for one more minute…

I was willing to do anything to create the space for that to happen…

I cleared myself with a few of my committed listeners.   My friends were ruthlessly compassionate with me:   “Linda, you are either going to spend your life defending and explaining or you are going to listen to him and love him no matter what he says.   You can’t have both…”

A little scared… off I went to Minneapolis…

I started on Saturday by saying, “Josh, I know that there is something between us…”

He interrupted me, “Mom, not here at breakfast… Let’s go home and talk about this….”

When we got to his apartment, I tried again, “Josh, you can say anything you want to say to me…   I am here to listen…”

And, listen I did… for hours….

What he said is not for here… and it’s not what is at the heart of the matter, anyway… What IS the essence – the life — is that the way he saw it is the way it happened for him — and I needed to get that…

It was not easy. He spoke of things from when he was 9, when he was 13 – and times before, after, and in-between…

There were moments I wanted to jump in and say, “No, that’s not what happened…” and I remembered my friends’ caution… “Whatever way it is for him is the way it is for him… Just BE with it… That is the only way to honor him…”

Every time I wanted to correct his perception, I watched myself WANT to do that — and what went through my mind was, “this is not about being right about anything… this is about loving him…”

The more I listened, the more he said…

By four in the afternoon, we were both quiet….

What I did finally say was, “Josh, I am committed to having an extraordinary relationship with you….”

And, he said:

“Mom, I am committed to having an extraordinary relationship with you, too….”

We stopped the “heavy stuff” and proceeded to have a great weekend… He cooked for me, we watched a movie on TV and I scratched his head like I always did when he was a little boy….

The next day, he was still impatient with me and I was still trying too hard to be a “good mother”…

Old patterns die hard….

But, something had shifted… something transformed…. the impatience was more playful, the “good mother” was not so righteous… or needy…

He drove me to the airport early Monday morning. As I kissed him “Good-bye” and turned to go… I knew that we had done something huge that weekend…  I was at peace.

If anyone had told me when I was 12 that I could ever hurt my child or cause him pain, I would have said that it was not possible….

What I learned is that there are other ways to hurt a child besides leaving him in a urine-soaked diaper…

We do what we do in any moment because that is our level of consciousness at that time…

It is a gift to be able to grow in awareness… to take responsibility for what we have done and to acknowledge the impact it has on the people around us… and commit to something new, something greater, something full of love and compassion for who they are….

And… for who WE are…

Anything is possible now for me and Josh ….

I have no idea what that looks like…

Now, THAT’S an adventure worth having…

Deliciously yours in the Glory of it All,  Linda

“Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older,
When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

Sunrise, sunset…
Sunrise, sunset…
Swiftly flow the years.
One season following another,
Laiden with happiness and tears.”
…from “Fiddler on the Roof”

This is my son, Josh Feuer…  An amazing man, if I do say so — and not just because I’m his mother…..  xoxo

How did I learn to listen like this?  See www.landmarkeducation.com.

10 Responses to ““When did he grow to be so tall….?””

  1. Janet Goldstein Dubner said

    Hi Linda,
    We try so hard at motherhood and for all the world to see, we have succeeded. But in all our efforts at good, how often do we do something hurtful–that we’ve long since forgotten, but that our children hold on to? I’m so glad your weekend with Josh succeeded in bringing you closer — and more relaxed with each other. That really is a joy and a blessing.

    You are inspiring me to write to my children before a family reunion in Seattle in a couple of weeks. Thanks for an lovely story.

    Happy 4th of July! Love, Janet

    • spiritualchocolate said

      Dear Janet,
      Thank you so much for reading…. and yes… unless we have the courage to go there, we never do know what they are thinking, how they saw it, and if they were hurt or not….. Do write to your children… there is no better time than now…. Much love, Linda xoxo

  2. Ann Fry said

    Linda … awesome. You’re a wonderful writer and as I read, I cried. As a Mom, I understand the volitility of relationships with our children and I know how words and actions can hurt so much … because we have so much invested in them.
    Thanks for your candor and congratulations for what it took to get to the heart of the matter.

    • spiritualchocolate said

      Thank you, Ann… for reading and for understanding, as a mom, how it is for us…. I’m sure we’re not alone…. Much love, Linda xoxo

  3. Doug Longo said

    Dear Linda
    Your entry this week reminds me of advice given by a well known relationship expert-“Seek first to understand,then to be understood.”You followed this advice so well that it wasn’t necessary to explain your side.I hope that your relationship with your son continues to improve and grow.
    Take Care!
    Doug

    • spiritualchocolate said

      Dear Doug,
      Once again, thank you for reading. Yes, you’re right…. I was illustrating how challenging it can be to even “get” another person’s way the world is….. we are so convinced that the way it happened for us is the way it happened, period…. we each do have an “occurring world” that is the way the world occurs for us that could be very different even from the people who experienced the very same thing…. Kind of the blind men and the elephant effect…. I’m just so glad that I could stay with it and present the whole time because I do love my son so much… AND, in my heart, I know that we can do this with everyone…. Much love, xoxo

  4. Dear Linda,

    This was a very beautiful and moving piece. I think we can all relate to it, as children, parents or both.

    We never want to hurt the ones we love and yet it is inevitable that we do.

    What matters is how we deal with this. Your words are so wise:

    “The more I listened, the more he said…”

    You have given both your son and your Self a great gift.

    This with Love,
    Jeffrey

    • spiritualchocolate said

      Dear Jeffrey,
      Thank you for your tender words… they mean a lot to me, especially coming from an artist like you… I really appreciate it…. Much love, Linda xoxo

  5. Bill said

    gotta keep wondering why we wait so long to make things “right”. throughout my entire life I have endeavoured to share, lead, follow, entice, share, question, dare I use the word “confront” in the positive sense, share, and listen to others. Few would or could relate on the old feeling level; few could just sit there and listen, and absorb, and accept. No risk and all defense. I can barely count on my left hand the number of folks who did open their hearts. It is great that you two reached that spot.

    • Linda said

      One of the things I’ve learned, Bill, is that it is human nature to defend…. that is what we do… it DOES take something to let go of being attached to being right and just BE in love for the other person — and to get that they’re just being human, too…. We have to have compassion for our own humanity as well as others. WE want to be right, too, WE want them to get US, too… It takes something…… Love, Linda xoxo

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