The Stick

I first started editing this post on June 28, 2010

The actual event happened many years before that when my son was 7 or 8.  He is an amazing kid and my one regret in life was my lack of parental ability in lifting him up in his young years so he knew what an amazing creation I think he is.  There are a lot of factors of course and I see parents shepherding this little people well or not so well and ever time it takes me back.  I see my little boys hopeful face, his smile and his laughter.  That is my motivation in sharing this story with anyone who reads it.  you can never go back and undo an awful moment.  You can only pray that you replace it with enough wonderful moments to put a shadow on the bad one-in effect fade it into the background.  I’m learning that lesson still, although this was the day that stopped me in my tracks and solidified the decision to be a better parent in every way possible.  We still had a long way to go and I laid the ground work for years of work.  I choke up remembering the freedom in the laughter of that little boy who blessed my life and has been the biggest blessing of my life.

Parents your only job is to love your children so well that they know they are loved more than they can comprehend.  I would put that on a billboard if I thought it would work to stop parents in their tracks and make them see what their selfish and negative behaviors do to the innocent and hopeful spirits of their children.  Your child didn’t break your heart until you broke his spirit.  If you keep his spirit safely in the palms of your hands you guarantee his confidence in your love, in God’s love and in himself.

To Eric.  I love you so, so much that you cannot comprehend.  I have tears in my eyes today in realization of the struggles you face because I was not prepared to love you in the way you needed me to love you.  I am so proud of you.

The Stick

Today, the stick hangs on my living room wall as a reminder to keep my sons heart safely in my own.  It bears the fishing line, glue and leather strips that we used that day that changed my parenting for the future.  My hope is that by sharing this story, it will affect yours.

Eric is a very active little boy.  ADD by today’s standards but by all account super funny, highly  intelligent and well liked by almost everyone he meets.  He’s a charmer and showman and has more courage than I can even imagine possible.  He is my son, my hero and my heart.  He has a huge heart and a gentle and loving spirit.  Animals and children can’t resist flocking to him.

Eric loves wheels.  Bicycles, roller blades, cars and once a go-cart.

At this time it was roller blades.  He had learned to skate and loved to get out on one of the paved trails in our city.  He would fly along on his blades, back and forth with his friends or while I walked along calling to me come on mom, look how fast I ca go, don’t you want to try?  I can help you.  On he went in the one way conversation of children.  Always ready to go a little further, a little faster.  Always wanting to see what was around the next bend and never wanting to call it a day and go home.

One Saturday I was ready to try.  I had bought a pair of roller blades so I could skate with him on the trail, just like 4 wheel roller skates right?  Far from it.  My ankles hurt like crazy, the boots were hard and not very supportive-cheap skates clearly.  He rolled circles around me “come on, mom”, “you can do it”, “let me hold your hand, I can help you balance” on and on.  I tried to smile and keep going and we went about 1/8 mile when I was ready to quit.  He suddenly took off for the trees and was gone a few minutes.  He came popping back out of the trees with a small sapling tree, or at least what was left of it.  It’s about 6′ long and 2″ in diameter at the base.  He beamed at me with so much hope in his eyes at offering me a solution so we could skate together.  If you have ever seen this face on your child and allowed it to touch your heart you know there is no possible way anyone with a heart could refuse to try.  I tried and made it about another 1/8th mile before the pain in my feet was so excruciating that I couldn’t go on any further.  I apologized, took the skates off and we walked a couple of miles to our destination.  He took it in stride, the way he always does.  “It’s ok mom, you tried” and on.  He was so encouraging and hopeful I still remember.

When we got to the car he was going to chuck the stick, but I wanted to keep it as a reminder of our day and a reminder to keep trying.

It wasn’t a great time of life – for me.  I took the stick home and leaned it into a corner, and soon forgot about it.  Life happened.  Money had to be made and spent.  I held the world on my shoulders – All By Myself! if you please.  I wasn’t but it was a darker time.

One day I went outside to find my stick laying in the yard.  I picked it up and took it in the house.  A couple days later the stick is outside again.  And a couple days after that.  One day I went out and he was playing with my stick, fighting a big battle with an imagined foe.  It was a really bad day for me.  Life had wacked me a good one, but I don’t remember what.  I remember the rage though.  How indignant I was that he took my stick again.  I marched right out there and grabbed it from him, yelling that I had told him to leave it alone, it wasn’t his…I can’t continue with the details.  It was horrible.  Finally, working myself up to a fury I put the stick against the porch and stomped on it.  It wouldn’t break.  I jumped on it again and again until I heard a crack.  That’s when his cries reached my soul “No, Mommy, no.  Don’t break it.  I’ll never touch it again.  I’m sorry.”  Trying with all he had to keep me from breaking the stick.

I turned and saw him.  As if for the first time in my life.  I saw the tenderness and the hurt I had inflicted on my child.  I see his tears streaming down his face.  I see his hands gripped in front of him, bending over.  I see his little red and yellow shirt, his blue jeans and his little tennis shoes quivering as he pleads with me that he’ll be good…

He had happy memories of the stick too – and in his play was reliving the day that we had shared.  It’s just a stick.

I stopped cold in my tracks.  Seeing my little boy for the first time and it struck me in that moment.  He isn’t the one who broke my heart when I was 7 or 8, but I had just repeated the story.  I allowed the devil to win one.  I sacrificed my sweet childs heart over a stick.  I think I picked him up and begged him to forgive me.  I remember sitting on the porch steps with my son on one arm and this stick in another.  I was emotionally empty and had no idea how to fix this.

We eventually went inside.  I gathered all of the materials I could think of to put it back together.  He crouched next to me, intent on the repairs.  We can never undo violence, anger, hatred or rage.  We can’t fix a relationship with glue or string.  We have to prevent the damage in the first place.

I rubbed glue between the broken wood.  I wrapped the whole section with fishing line doubled.  I tied it in very secure knots.  I then wrapped the entire section in wet leather strips that would shrink as they dried to hold it together.  I was exhausted.  That was the best we could do.

He never touched it again…but I wish I could change that day.

To every parent.  Love your children so well that they know how deeply they are loved without a doubt.

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