Monday, June 14, 2010

family: ... when you're down, and troubled...

I've been thinking about support networks lately, and this seems like a topic worth covering with respect to kids.

Refueling the Confidence Tank

I'd say that it's a fairly basic truth that when our world is shaken, by external or internal forces, we humans need some support. We can't manage alone. Humans are social creatures, and if you know me and know my tendency, you understand that coming from me, this statement is significant. I'm a real introvert in most cases, but over time I've realized that this doesn't equate to not needing other people. I need people. I just also need my quiet time to recharge.

It's pretty simple for most of us, at least at the start. As babies our primary support network is our mother (and to a lesser extent, father). As small kids, when we're scared, upset, angry, in need, we turn to a parent. (And when we're upset or angry with one parent, we turn to the other. And sometimes get what we want!)

As time goes on, we (hopefully) develop additional support: siblings, peers, team members, school friends, work associates, partners....

One reason this is all in focus for me is that we had layoffs at work last week, and as a result, I lost a key member of my support network there. The sense of disorientation was significant, and it sent me reeling to my non-work support (family and friends). My weekend was full of distractions and upheaval, things that didn't directly relate to work but that were influenced due to my personal sense of distraction.

The thing is, as a parent, I can't afford to spend too much time being distracted or unavailable, because my kids need me for their own support. Kids look to their parents to be stable and reliable and constant. (Little do they realize just how little in this world actually is stable/reliable/constant!)

I don't know much about theories of growth and maturation, but it seems obvious to me that to be able to push the limits (riding a bike to the opposite side of the park, going and talking to a new girl in the sandbox, sitting down and trying to fit puzzle pieces together) a kid needs to know that they have someone watching their back. In case the bike falls and they skin their knee. In case the girl isn't friendly. In case the pieces refuse to go together.

So, on the best of days, I try to be there whenever there's a kid crisis. And there are many. Everything from not knowing where a dolly is, to not being able to fit the cap back on a lipstick. Getting pushed by a sister. Slipping off a rocking horse. Being unable to draw a "perfect" window or pumpkin or computer.... everything that sets a girl back is less significant when you know someone is watching out for you.

I hate the idea that there are things I can't make right, and that there will be times when I won't be able to catch K or L when they want/need to be caught. But the reality is, I'm not going to be able to, and I already can't.

I'm sometimes short with one of the girls when what they need is comfort or just to know that, yes, Daddy is here. More so when I'm wrestling with grownup things.

Just a reminder to myself: I've got an important job I need to give my attention to, and it's not the one I ride the bus into every morning.

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