Thursday, March 31, 2011

On Love and Criticism

I haven't been writing for the last week or so.  This wasn't due to lack of anything to say (ha-ha) but the fact that I attempted to cement in some fence posts and took most of the skin off my hands.  This is pretty normal for me and construction projects, (remind me to tell you sometime the story of how I ended up in the ER after attempting to remodel the bathroom), but as it is rather hard to type with no skin on ones fingers I took a break from the keyboard.  Now that I am back I want to share what happened to my younger son and I at the mall a few months ago.

My family is a very touchy feely family.  I grew up that way and it seems natural to me to pat my children as they are walking by, to kiss and hug them for no reason other than they are there, to hold hands when walking, etc, etc.  It has worked out well as all my kids are what I refer to as "drapers".  They seem unable to stand under their own body weight when near someone they know.  I don't mind because after they grew too big to fit in my lap comfortably they could still come and sit or stand next to me and cuddle and hug without making me unable to breathe!  It was this tendency to sprawl that got me in "trouble" at the mall.

Tucker and I were sitting at the edge of the food court waiting for Dad to wander back from looking at something for my birthday.  As usual Tucker first stood next to me talking a mile a minute, then leaned on my shoulder, then as he began telling me something more personal he put his arms around my neck so he could play with my hair (something he does when stressed or tired) and went in to full body lean.  Since he was about to hit the floor I put my arm around him so he was almost sitting in my lap, and with my other hand I was rubbing his back.  He was pretty upset about something that had happened at school, and since this was our first alone time that day he wanted to share and get some comfort from Mom.  As we are sitting there in our own world and he is pouring his little heart out a woman walked up to us.

I will pause here and say that I am not a terribly social person.  I rarely talk to strangers unless they are other Moms in the park or something similar, and meeting new people is something I enjoy about as much as having my boob caught in a door (that's another weird construction story).  So to have some stranger approach me and start talking is uncomfortable at best, however I have been working to change this part of myself (I think I'm rude) so I gave the woman a smile.  She smiled back, leaned down towards us and said "Don't you think he's a bit old to be doing that?"  and then walked off without another word.

I was stunned.  I just froze in my seat.  I had never seen this person before, and she just came and accused me of inappropriate contact with my 9 year old son.  Then I got angry, really, really angry.  How DARE this person tell me how to act with MY child.  Who did she think she was?  Then I started questioning my behavior, was I doing something wrong?  Was I offending other people without realizing it?

Over the next few days I kept coming back and worrying about this.  As I admitted earlier I am a major worrier, and have very little self confidence.  Finally after talking it over with my spouse again he asked me why I was letting some stranger have the power to upset me 3 days later with one random, cruel comment.  At that point I went to my meditation/thinking/prayer spot and calmed down and really thought about how I felt and why.

No one likes to have someone else randomly question their life choices.  We have a tendency to get defensive and try and justify why we do things the way we do and in many cases attempt to persuade the questioner to change position and agree with us. I think this approach tends to make us get stuck in how we want to approach life and forget that there is more than one path to being happy.  Let's face it, two people rarely do things the exact same way yet there are millions of loving fulfilled folks out there.

 I have no idea why a random stranger would tell me not to cuddle my son in the middle of the food court at Gateway Mall.  Maybe she was abused, or in a bad mood, or maybe she is from a family where you only touch when someone is born or dies, (I know families like that) and in the end it just doesn't matter.  What matters is being secure in myself and my choices, being able to shrug off the negative comments of others and live my life in a way that makes my family and I happy.

My children grow up every day, and every day they are bigger and more mature and need less from Mom and Dad.  I will cuddle them (wherever we happen to be) for just as long as they will let me.  I will hold their hands and kiss their cheeks until the day I die and not feel one ounce of shame about it.  I am proud I have a family where we hug for no reason and cling together when life gets rough.  And at the end of the day I'm pretty sure that all that matters.

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