Teachable moments. As parents we know to look out for those fleeting instances where life and learning come together effortlessly. A trip to the grocery store teaches colors and counting to a toddler, a donation to the food bank brings opportunity to discuss poverty and hunger.
Life swirls around us willy-nilly and when we pay attention and grasp the lessons as they come, we have a chance to pass them on before the moment is lost. There’s an underlying assumption that we – with the benefit of advanced years and accompanying wisdom – will be the teachers, while our children are the ones being taught.
When we wake up from a deep sleep there is often a moment where our sleeping souls and our waking souls hover separate for a moment before settling into our body. I’ve felt it, that moment poised on the brink between dreams and daylight, just waiting for all of me to fall back to earth. But there are days when the meshing doesn’t quite happen right, things don’t line up like they should, and we wake up feeling the effects.
Julie is miserable from the moment her eyes open this morning. She tantrums and clings and cries and whines her way through the morning routine. Nothing is right, nothing tastes right or fees right or sounds right. But we rush through the routine of dressing and eating and lunch packing and teeth brushing, and there’s no time to do anything but drag her miserable little self along for the ride, gritting our teeth as we go.
8 O’Clock (ten minutes from the time we need to leave) finds her lying in the floor of our hallway, kicking her legs and screaming bloody murder again (and again and again). I hit my overload point, where frustration bubbles out of me and over onto anyone in the immediate vicinity.
Julie, if you can’t stop screaming I’m going to have to put you in your room!
Bella is walking down the hallway at that point and stops to look me in the eye.
B: Mama, don’t put her in her room. You’ll just make it worse, she’ll get more upset and everything will take longer. Ugh, timeout – it’s such a… grownup* idea. You know, it’s not like what she wants is not important. It IS important.
J: What does she want Bella? I don’t know, she’s been crying about everything since she woke up.
B: She just wants you to hear her.
And so we all slow down, and I sit in the hallway with both my girls, my gurus, my teachers, and I take a moment to hear them both, to learn from them, grateful that my oldest girl knew not to let a teachable moment pass unnoticed. Grateful that she took the time to pass on that wisdom to me. Grateful that I wasn’t so far gone that I couldn’t hear it.
And then we load up the car – daughters and mother and backbacks and lunch boxes and slightly lighter hearts – and head on our way, my teachers and I.
What do any of us want, really, but to speak and be heard, to exist and be accepted? Even cranky, even ugly, even when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, even when we’re pushed to our limits by things that nobody else understands. We all want someone to hear us.
It IS important.
*Please note: the word grownup must be read in a tone dripping with disgust and incomprehension – as if grownups were a separate, and not entirely intelligent, species that she is forced to deal with.