Friday, August 19, 2016

The Follow-Through

Three times it has happened.

Three times we have met a new neighbor, a boy just my oldest son's age.

Three times we have been told that that boy would come knocking to play at a specific time.

Three times my son has woken up, gotten dressed, cheerfully done all his chores and waited for a potential new friend to knock.

Zero times has that boy shown up.

As a parent, there are fewer things more difficult than watching your child be sad. Almost two months ago, we took my son from all that he knew. A school he loved, a friendly neighborhood, best friends in the backyard, a fantastic soccer team, a church where he was learning to worship with other kids in a multi-generational setting.

And for two months I have watched him try to be brave. To smile for us, to help with his brothers, to power-wash our fence and help unpack the truck. To set up his room just the right way and patiently earn his way to new roller blades through doing extra chores. To find him sobbing in his room, wishing he were still in Wisconsin, unwilling to admit that he's probably mad at what we've done to him. Hurting.

And when these possibilities of friends, of humans his age living so close are dangled in front of him, I see his hopes rise. I see his step lighten.

When they don't show?

I see him crushed again. And in that disappointment, all the things he misses come rushing back in on him. The pain becomes even more acute. The homesickness grows.

I can't do much here. I can play with him and take him on special outings for taboo foods we can no longer keep in the house because of his brother's issues. I can teach him how to pray through this pain, how to invite God into it. I can do all this.

But I cannot be a nine year-old boy.

And what he needs is a friend.

So, I sit here and type as he plays legos alone and his brothers sleep. I asked if I could play but he wanted to be alone. I don't know how to get our neighbors to follow through. Today, after the disappointment, I marched him over to knock on their door. No one was home. Not once has anyone given us an explanation for the no-shows.

If there is one thing I have learned about my oldest it is that he never forgets anything. A promise, a casual comment, a word. They stick. If someone says he will give him a present, he asks every day for months if it has come in the mail. If someone says he will write, he asks me to check the mailbox all day long. If someone says she will come over, he waits by the door.

He trusts that people will do what they say they will do.

And I am so afraid that the more this happens, the more his nature is going to change. That he won't believe what people say. That he will have trouble letting new people into his life.

I don't know why that boy and his mama didn't come over this morning. I don't know why the other ones didn't come last week. I don't want to pass any judgments. There could have been an emergency. She doesn't have my number to call and let me know what's going on. Maybe she just forgot or decided it was inconvenient to stop what she was doing and go hang with the lonely neighbors. I don't know.

But man, I hate feeling helpless and I hate watching him let down. Again. And knowing that I, too, am capable of this failure, have not always followed through. Have not always been true to my word. Have flung promises carelessly at times. Have inflicted my own share of pain.

I cannot shelter him from the disappointments. I can only teach him to cling to the One who doesn't disappoint.  In fact, I know deep down that he has to experience this to truly be human, to develop empathy, to learn about the importance of his own follow-through. Of doing what he says he will do and speaking truth and life to the people in his life.

Friends, I don't know if you have children in your life. But I know we all have humans in our lives. And I know that as humans we crave to be able to trust, we desire to be sought after, to be followed-up. To be shown we matter.

Being people who say what they mean and do what they say has no small impact on the world. Following through on what we say is just one gift we can give to each other, one way we can be lovely in a world filled with so much unlovely.

Let's just be that, shall we?

1 comment:

  1. Carolyn - your post today really spoke to me. I'm neither a mom nor a 9 year old looking for a friend, but I can definitely remember feeling homesick and sad when I was at Richmond and desperately looking for friends. As you get older, you realize that it takes a while to make those best friends, but when you are 9, it should be so much simpler. I hope that the start of school brings about many new friends for your whole family, and from what I know of you (mainly from this blog and a passing relationship in college), you will absolutely find them.