“Just look out the window”, he said. “Of course I can’t play soccer today. Seriously, what were you thinking”. I guess I was thinking that I was 5000 miles away on the Russian-Ukrainian border and had no idea that it was beginning to storm in Norfolk, Virginia. That statement got me to thinking about life. “Just look out the window”, is it as easy as that? Why hadn’t I thought about it? That should be my “key” to difficulties in life “Just look out the window”. I am sure that everything is just as obvious to you, in your life, wherever you are reading this.
I was traveling with an adoptive family to Ukraine in April 2007 when this epiphany hit me. My son was at home with my sister when I called to remind him about which uniform he was to wear at the soccer game at 1:00 PM. It was 9:30 AM in Norfolk, Virginia. I was still trying to be a mother even though I hadn’t been home in a month. I still wanted to be involved and maybe know something that he didn’t. What I didn’t expect was that he expected me to know much, much more. I was not aware of the impending Nor’easter that was threatening the east coast. I was still in my little world of Kharkiv, Ukraine wondering when it might start to warm up. I was dreaming of the beautiful sun and warmth of the air in Virginia. My child was the one who understood the key to life, “Just look out the window”. When I didn’t respond appropriately, he added, “don’t you see the rain? Do you actually expect me to play in this weather?” It wasn’t until that very second that I knew it was not my place to dictate his day to him. I wasn’t there to look out his window and his perspective was all that mattered to him. I had placed responsible people in my stead to care for my children. They had all the tools necessary, the children’s schedules, their uniform colors, their responsibilities etc They had grocery money and transportation and a phone number to reach me if something went array.
As a child development expert, I often thought I could understand children. I have had over 20 years experience working with families and youth in a variety of capacities. It was about time that I started to look out my own window to the world around me and evaluate what I knew to be true. I didn’t know what the weather was like for my child and should not have presumed anything. My conversation should have started with, “so what’s your weather like?”
I wonder from time to time in my travels if my children actually understand where I am. They already are very aware that I “live” on the phone. I am the busiest person they know and no matter where I am, I am always accessible to them and talking to them. It is only fair to think that they may perceive me to be around the corner, at the office, on my way home, at the store or somewhere on another continent. On another trip I had to Ukraine in 2003, my middle son made a similar phone call to me about 2 weeks into my trip. He called me up (obviously not a local call) and said, “Mom, on your way home could you pick up some peanut butter and jelly? We have no food in the house?” My immediate reaction was, “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? THERE IS PLENTY OF FOOD IN THE HOUSE! YOUR GRANDMOTHER WOULD NEVER LET YOU STARVE!” Why didn’t he realize that I was across the world? Why would he ask me a question about going grocery shopping when it would be another week before I got home? Of course I asked him if I could speak to my mother so that I could straighten out the situation. She had no idea that he was calling me and said that he didn’t like what she was serving for dinner and he went to his room with the telephone and the phone number. My children have always been able to have access to me. I would have preferred the use of the calling card instead of a direct call in this instance, but I never wanted my children to feel that they couldn’t reach me whenever they needed me. In this case, he was using whatever means necessary to avoid eating whatever “poison” my mother was creating for their dinner.
And here I thought that I was a child development expert. What I am is a busy person who has forced her lifestyle onto her children. Why shouldn’t he think that I would stop what I was doing in Ukraine and immediately fly home to buy him peanut butter and jelly for his dinner? What kind of mother would allow her son to eat something that was distasteful to him? What kind of a mother was I? What I did understand is that my child knew me well enough to know that he could contact me and I would fix whatever the problem was. In this case, my mother made him something else to eat and created a shopping list for the following day which seemed to pacify my son for the time being.
So readers, what do you see when you look out the window? Do you see a reality that is only visible to you? Do you see the weather and create a day that reflects the image of sun or rain or do you simply make the most of what you may be doing and use that “window” to guide you in your life.
What do you see? I, for one, see a world in need of repair. I see cultures so different that it is sometimes hard to bridge the gaps. I see “weathered” people in need of a helping hand. I see life getting carried away in a storm due to the media, music, activities that are thrust upon us. It is difficult to keep up with the technologies and advancements of today. I feel like I am caught up in the storm. I am glad that I can swim! Can you?
Copyright (c) 2007 Sharon Liddle