Communication is under-rated.
Like when our Rachel was learning to drive. That learning activity was something Bill did with her, and I observed from the back seat. Not having my husband’s great depth perception, my observations many times came with involuntary drawing-ins of air, and the universal-Mom’s invisible-brake pedal.
“Turn left at the next street, honey,” Bill instructed, during one of her early lessons. Now mind you, I had no reason to believe she wouldn’t do exactly what her father told her. Up until that point, she had done rather well, staying between the lines; braking slowly, accelerating respectfully —
During moments like those you learn lessons about your children. Why is it we remember those moments of surprise so well?Perhaps because we are vulnerable; especially when they are driving. After all, they have the steering wheel! That particular driving lesson, we arrived at the left-turn corner in question, and Rachel drove past it, never slowing.
“Why didn’t you turn?” her father asked, watching not only the road-sign, but the purpose of our outing — the Wendy’s and their large Frosty — pass into rear-view.
“You said, ‘turn left,‘ Dad,” she responded, keeping her eyes on the road. “I will when we get there.”
Bill and I exchanged glances. What was she saying?
“We did get there,” I said. “Why didn’t you turn?”
“M- ah-m!” She sighed her reply, using the fifteen-year-old voice that only daughters-who-have-been-daughters, of mothers-who-are-being-mothers would recognize. At the next corner, Rachel began putting one hand over another, turning the steering wheel.
Her dad and I found ourselves laughing. Out loud.
“What?” she asked, looking at us. Her father’s eyes were twinkling as he responded. “Must be your other left, Rach,” was all he said, as the car made a right-hand turn.
From her earliest years, our daughter has mixed her directions. (I could write a book here, but I don’t want to get off track….) When she was five, we tried everything, from making an “L” with the “left” hand, to memory games. We even did the drill: “My left makes an ‘L’ and I write with my right.” She tried hard; even to the point of frustration. The knowledge just didn’t “stick.” (Bear in mind that these days she is a gifted wedding photographer! And even back then she was designing wedding dresses and evening gowns.)
She just couldn’t remember which side was left, and which side was right!
For the sake of the story, I should tell you: I know exactly where the weakness in Rachel’s personal navigation system came from. It wasn’t her fault. For as long as I can remember, I too, have struggled; mixing digits, turning numbers; directionally challenged…. Once, years ago, not long after Bill and I were married, I once drove 25 miles out of the way, driving home alone from the grocery store! Way back then, we were a young couple in a new city. That sense of not-knowing scared me. Now, thirty years out? I have learned to deal. After all, the tendency has surfaced so many times, for so long…. Now, its something we all joke about with each other. “No, Mom,” they say, “you don’t have to drive. We’ll lead you.”
I’m thankful I can ask. I’m thankful for family. Additionally, I’m deeply grateful for community. Because, even though I keep maps in my car; several of my friends continue to be kind enough to answer their cell phones and take the time to provide me a running-feed of control-tower encouragement as I search for the right road. I’ve become really good at U-turns; even the 3, 4, 5 and 6-point types of turns…. (Just a note: This year, my favorite Christmas gift was the GPS our children gave me. It’s great! — it has even helped my prayer life! If I need to travel to a new place, I pull it out. Then I pray the sky isn’t too cloudy to find a signal….)
Mixed directions. Misunderstood signals. It seemed natural when the girls were smaller, to find different ways to communicate what they needed to learn. For example, when they were learning to set the table, we didn’t tell them the fork went on the right (I mean left!) — Instead, we drew a template and asked them to copy it with the dishes. When we passed food during Family Table, we would point in the desired direction and say, “Pass the bread that way.” And guess what? It worked. Our girls learned. We connected. The table got set; the bread was passed.
As I’ve been working on the worksheets for teaching couples to bond, I’ve found myself thinking this week about my own sense of being directionally challenged, and what it has taught me about bonding issues. Those places within each of us where we are still waiting for bonding to occur — those are the areas where our conflicts take place. Those are the areas where we have developed false strength.
Those are the areas where the signal isn’t clear; “left” doesn’t really mean “left” to us — And even though we work hard, using the same minimal tools we have always used — it doesn’t seem to “click.” I’ve had parents explain this away, by saying, “If my child never had it, they don’t know it’s missing, and that’s okay.” If you have thought that way, let me ask you to follow that kind of thinking to its conclusion, and consider an equivalent statement:
“My child never grew a right arm, but it’s okay. They’re not handicapped. They have the same abilities as everyone else.”
Such a statement isn’t true, is it?
I’m sure we’ll discuss this more at a later point, because it is where I am in the learning process of helping people heal right now…. Just let me say that bonding gaps cause us to develop wrong perceptions about who we are; places where have chosen to live our lives alone. Usually, these are the empty places, left unaddressed in us, for one reason or another. Used to being alone, we choose to survive alone; not choosing community; figuring it out by ourselves.
Such independence does not make us stronger, it just gets us lost… like me on new roads without a GPS– only refusing to make a phone call. We become like explorers without a compass. When this independence happens within a marriage, it transends into parenting; and our children do not receive the emotional tools they need. How can they?
We cannot give to them, what we don’t have — Or teach them what we haven’t learned ourselves.
The Solution for our bonding needs is presented in our Heavenly Father. He is God — He is the One who made us, who loves us, who chooses us to be His — no matter what. He is the Only God, and He speaks every language. He knows every bonding deficit.
The moment we open to receive His love — He begins the process — He will do whatever it takes to connect with you. That is why He came in the form of Jesus Christ.
If that seems a little scary right now, then, at the very least, begin opening your life to those you love. Admit your weaknesses. Ask for help. Then, look around. Let me encourage you to find a solid group of real believers in Christ who believe in the value of community; Safe people, who will let you fail as you learn.
God isn’t about religion — He is about relationship; and it’s not anything you can earn by keeping a set of rules, or acting a certain way.
He just loves you, and wants you to get the right signals.
(C)2010 DG — Awakened To Grow . Duplication without permission prohibited.