I told you to be patient
I told you to be fine
I told you to be balanced
I told you to be kind
In the morning I’ll be with you
But it will be a different kind
Bon Iver, Skinny Love
How much do you love me?
My oldest son asked me, big brown eyes watching me as I looked back at him in my rear view mirror–it was almost as if he was holding his breath, wondering what my answer would be.
I love you so much it fills up my heart and overflows–my heart just can’t hold how much I love you.
How much do you love running?
My mouth twitched as I couldn’t hold back a smile. This boy, full of tests today. It was one of the rare times his twin sister and older sister weren’t with us. I felt his braveness, asking questions he would never ask in front of their listening ears. My 3 year old was busy playing with the marbles in his hand–crashing them together, oblivious to the deep questions his big brother was asking.
I didn’t skip a beat as I answered: I love running a lot–it’s pretty special to me– but it only takes up a teeny tiny part of my heart.
I saw him breathe a sigh of relief and he had an almost smug smile on his face that seemed to say–I knew it, I knew she loved me more than running.
I look at him and I can’t help but think of the man he will grow up to be. In my dreams, he’ll always make the right choices. Good choices. Kind choices.
But what happens when he doesn’t?
At just 7 years old, we’ve been teaching him cause and effect for his behavior–both the good and the bad. Natural consequences. Sometimes, as a parent, one of the hardest things to do is to watch your child fail–to see them make bad choices and see the negative outcome. We want to swoop in and save the day. But what we know deep down, is that teaches them nothing. It’s impossible for them to grow, learn from their mistakes, to do better and be better people when we are constantly enabling them. Constantly saving them. Never letting them struggle.
I love my boy so much that I didn’t have the words to tell him that day that would adequately describe just how much love I feel for him–my cup runneth over and over and over– and some day, when he has children of his own, he’ll know, no, feel, the answer to his own question.
And it’s because I love him so much that I let him stumble over the sometimes bad choices he makes now. Cause and effect. Natural consequences. And sometimes it hurts to see.
I’ve been watching, like everyone else, the news about the brave and strong woman who penned a heart-wrenching response to the man who was convicted of three counts of sexual assault against her.
I imagine, like many mothers thought after reading her powerful words– I couldn’t stop myself from thinking: What if that had been my daughter? How I’d want to wrap her up in a cocoon of my arms–holding tight, wanting to absorb all the pain she was feeling. Wanting to protect her. Whispering the words, I’ll love you forever. I’d do anything, anything, to take this pain from you.
And then my thoughts went further….What if that had been my son?
What if it had been my son?
I imagine there is nothing your child could do that would make you stop loving them. I imagine I would hold him tight and whisper, yes, I love you so much more than running. So much that it spills out of my whole heart and takes over my whole being. My cup runneth over and over and over.
But when you do something so unspeakable against a woman, I would remind you: You have a mother and two sisters. You have aunts, grandmothers and cousins. All of these women deserve to feel safe in their own bodies. Just like every other girl and woman in this world. And if you did something to harm any person in this world, then what are the consequences you must face?
The consequences he deserves because of the actions he chose to do.
I would not write a plea minimizing his actions. I would not blame college culture. Or his peers. I would not call what he did 20 minutes of action.
Natural consequences. Cause and effect.
Forever changing the life of another human being? Taking away their right to feel safe?
Those things deserve whatever consequence he must face. Surely his parents must know he deserves so much more than a 6 month county jail sentence for what their son did. A choice he, and he alone made. I wonder if he looked at them, without even having to ask: How much do you love me? So much that you will help get me out of the punishment I deserve for the crimes I’ve committed?
I remember when my son was learning to ride his bike. He was afraid of falling. He wanted me to hold on to his seat so that he would stay balanced and he wanted me to promise that he wouldn’t ever fall. It’s hard to let go. And it’s even harder when we know we can’t promise they won’t ever get hurt. But what happens when we never let our boys fall? What happens when we stay running behind them, holding their seats, never letting go? When they finally do fall, they blame everyone but themselves. We blame ourselves. We blame others. And our sons don’t learn from the natural consequences they should face. When we don’t let go and never let them fall, we don’t let our boys become the good men they can be. Men who face their consequences–whatever they may be.
Never Give Up,