This morning before leaving for work I was struck by the sign on my 8-year old son’s bedroom door. It was a list of “rules” for entering which you can see here:
I thought it was a fine list of rules; he doesn’t seem to request anything of his bedroom guests that is too unreasonable. Asking permission to enter, being kind, respecting his personal space, as well as his feelings and the times when he just needs to be alone… all good things. What I was most intrigued by was the warning he attached below them: if you break the rules, you’re out. No wavering, no mending, no talking about the problem. It’s a very move-along-and-don’t-let-the-door-hit-ya-on-the-way-out sort of mentality; Nihilist, even, black-and-white. Fear ridden. Destructive rather than constructive.
So while I was standing there reading the sign and having these thoughts I wondered, is that what my son has learned? He’s seen me go through three relationships with men I invited into our home and our family yet who are no longer around, outside of his own father. The other two just… disappeared. Why? Because they broke the rules, I guess. And what were my rules? Well, very similar to junior’s, actually:
Seriously. I asked for a donut. Where the fuck is it?! Right??? I think we all feel that way sometimes, or at least I have. I just find it very interesting to see that feeling reflected here in my son’s rules for entering his room, his world, his life. Poignant, symbolic, yes? What I don’t know is how much of that is learned and how much of it is a natural part of being human and wanting to feel safe and cared for. I guess if anyone regardless of their current situation or circumstances growing up can say that they would ask the same of anyone entering their haven, then we can all agree that these rules belong on every door to every heart.
Unfortunately, written within those rules there is nothing to be said of loving for the sake of loving; giving when you don’t want to give; learning what that feels like in the end. Even though it’s challenging, there is no implication in such demands that believing the pain of loving without guarantee or restitution is worth it; there is no resolve to lead with love despite the fear of getting burned.
What do we do not only for the other person, but for ourselves when we allow someone in even when they’ve hurt us… upset us… didn’t deliver what we asked for? I’m 34-years old and I’m still figuring this out; I suppose I can’t expect my 2nd grader to really grasp it yet. But as his mother, his teacher, his guide, I see it as my job and my privilege to show him the power of love, forgiveness, and working through differences, even when someone we trusted enough to welcome into our lives has hurt us, gone against the rules. We would all want someone to show up at our door bearing donuts, chocolate, and ice cream. It’s just that, not all days are like that. Some days it’s a pile of smelly trash, baggage you don’t care to deal with, and horse shit.