Years ago, when I first got married, my husband would get SO frustrated with finding Evan's shoes in the doorway. He would say, "Why can't he take them off somewhere besides right where he knows we'll be walking?" or "Can he not pick them up and put them somewhere else?" Even though that was before we started radically unschooling, it didn't get to me at all. It was just something Evan did - I didn't take it personally or anything. I would just move them (when I remembered) before my husband got home.
Those shoes in the doorway have become such a loving symbol to me - every time they're there, I think, "Evan wants me to think of him," so I do, and I smile, and send love. I am so grateful to have him as my son; he has taught me so much, this boy who made me a Mama. I would not have started the parenting path I did had he not been so sweet and kind. If he had been a "typical boy" (what does that mean?), it's possible I would have put him in school and he would do OK, and we'd have the regular arguments about homework and time on the computer and video games... and shoes in the doorway.
As it is, his spirit was so great and he was so amazing (and still is!), I knew he needed to be nurtured at home, not forced to become someone he's not in order to fit in. His needs were the inspiration for me to grow, to question conventional parenting, and the impetus for us to make this amazing life.
A recent post on Always Learning made me smile:
You ed: (this was written to the list, but Pam Sorooshian in particular) wrote:
Stop thinking about changing "for good and not just for days or moments." That is just another thing to overwhelm you and you don't need that!
Just change the next interaction you have with the kids.
Stop reading email right now and do something "preventative" - something that helps build your relationship with them. Fix them a little tray of cheese and crackers and take it to them, wherever they are, unasked. Sit down on the floor and play with them. If nothing else, just go and give each of them a little hug and a kiss and say, "I was just thinking about how much I love you."
Okay - so that is one good, positive interaction.
Here's the link:
That thing about the cheese and crackers really jumped out at me then, whenever it was (years ago, I'm thinking) that I first read it. The simplicity of it, the love and tenderness in the gesture. Such an ordinary thing, fixing a plate of cheese and crackers, and yet--and yet--
"Take it to them, wherever they are, unasked." Anticipating a possible need, showing love with action, not making a big deal or grand gesture out of it. It's an active kind of love that is thinking about the other person and putting yourself in his shoes and imagining what would make that person feel happy and loved.
I don't know why that post gobsmacked me the way it did the first time I read it, but it made me examine the best relationships in my life and appreciate the magnitude of the little things people did for me, like the way my husband always keeps our Brita water dispenser filled up. I don't even notice it & could easily take it for granted. I'm the one home all day drinking the water, but I bet I haven't refilled that thing more than five times in five years--probably times he was out of town. He keeps it filled up because he loves me. There are things like that I do for him, and for each of my kids, some things I was doing even before I read that post and started really thinking about how much love there can be in a simple quiet act like bringing a plate of snacks to someone playing a video game. Ever since I read the post, I think of it all the time, looking at my children, thinking, What kind of cheese and crackers could I bring them right now? It's figurative--"cheese and crackers" has become my mental code for looking for nice little things to do for my kids. Or sometimes if I catch myself starting to be cross or distracted, I'll think: "where's the cheese and crackers?" It's a memory-trigger for me, a reminder to be present and nice.
So now, when I see Evan's shoes in the doorway, I think of something kind I can do for him, then I go do that thing. His shoes won't be there forever! He's already 16. His shoes provide me with an opportunity to open my heart a little bit, spread a little bit of love & caring.
I am one blessed Mama.