During a day long soccer tournament, I was having a conversation with a parent of another player on my 8 year olds team. We were discussing keeping our cool when life get stressful.
To my left was my 5 year old and his friend nattering at each other. Typically their conversations have a question or two for the nearest adult where a nod or a grunt suffice as a response, and one can return to finish the adult conversation.
Today, my 5 year old was telling his friend that his mummy was a policeman and that she has caught robbers (I chuckled at the title). The friend asked me if they stay in jail forever. I tried briefly to explain that jail was like a “time out” not a place to stay forever, and that hopefully afterwards they would have had lots of time to think about what they did, and to not want to repeat it. He didn’t seem convinced but quickly the conversation changed as my 5 year old said “our older sister was killed – she was cut in half by strangers– and even those people aren’t in jail forever”. WOW – that got my attention.
As I’m sure you can imagine my anxiety went through the roof, the elephant that sometimes lives on my chest jumped on and crushed my lungs making it hard to breathe.
I spoke quietly and briefly to my son and his friend, clarifying that she wasn’t cut in half (for fear of nightmares for his friends) but that she did die and the two people would be in jail for a long time and that no one needed to worry about them. I then redirected their conversation to the soccer game and they talked about how a particular Pokemon could beat all the players. Ahh…back to normal.
In the meantime, the adult who I was having a conversation with was still talking and I was trying to pay attention but my throat was quickly closing and my ears felt like the ocean was inside them. I missed most of what he was saying but heard “how come you’re always so calm, with 5 kids, I’m not sure I would be?”.
I managed a smile and a shoulder shrug, quickly excused myself to gain my composure and he never knew that I was screaming inside wanting nothing more than to punch something. So furious that these two people had brought this ugliness into the lives of my otherwise beautiful innocent children.
We just never EVER know what other people are dealing with in their private lives. Somehow we expect everyone to be functioning normally and interact with them as such. However, there may be times that someone seems aloof, distracted, disengaged, or down right useless – how quickly we can judge them.
I may have come across as all of those things regardless of how hard I tried to conceal it and the person I was speaking to might have thought “how rude, what’s her problem?”, and who would blame him?
In the end, I realized that my son is expressing his life factually and without rancor. He doesn’t feel the need to keep things inside or allow his sister’s story to fester and rot.
For that I am very grateful and as I remember that, the elephant gets lighter and breathing becomes easier.
I’m also grateful for the reminder that sometimes people carry great burdens that we aren’t aware of and one needs to have more patience, cognizant that they might be living their own nightmare.