He hands me the piece of cookie he’s broken off. Branch heard my mom say she didn’t bring me one. Just enough for the four children who can eat chocolate chip cookies. Moved by compassion, he shares with me.
It’s a moment that passes in the sea of commotion that is dinner.
When he came to me at 2 1/2, nothing predicted or even hinted at this outcome.
Branch was deeply insecure, especially regarding food. The first time I pushed for him to share was at Boston Pizza 18mths ago. The 3yr old let out a blood curdling scream and threw the small plate he’d been given on the floor. It shattered. That pushed Branch into absolute hysteria. I paid the bill and struggled to get him back into the stroller. We still needed to gather our clothing from the laundry mat around the corner. He continued to cry, scream, and kick.
At home, he recounted the story of breaking a plate and not being able to eat his chicken. It was the first time Branch was able to articulate past events. His sisters were astonished by the fact a plate broke. I was wowed by his ability to explain what happened. That event revealed to Branch the power of language and the impact of his own actions. It was a turning point.
Days haven’t been continually blissful since then. Branch remains incredibly strong willed. Often emotions overwhelm him. Sometimes it’s really loud and messy.
Then there are these moments when he reaches across the table and hands me a piece of cookie. It assures me, his heart has expanded enough that there’s room to share. No longer is he controlled by perceived scarcity. He has enough to give. He wants to give. He finds joy in that connection.
It’s something we were all created to experience – the ability to give and receive.
I watch my 9mth old do it so effortlessly. She smiles at fellow passengers on the ferry. She offers them her joy. They return a smile and slew of kind words. They share this moment of giving and receiving.
When Athena arrived at 20mths, she couldn’t participate in those moments. The attempts strangers made to reach out, sent her into a panic. She’d scream, “No! No! No!” to the elderly women in the grocery store. She had no joy to give. She was afraid to receive what was offered. Eventually, that shifted but she remained incredibly shy and withdrawn. I figured it was who she was.
Then it wasn’t. When we moved to Wolfe Island, the then 7yr old Athena blossomed into a very outgoing child who loves to laugh. Last December she came home so excited after the school Christmas lunch. Athena sat at the table with all the school bus drivers. She was the only child and perhaps not supposed to be there. But she had a fabulous time. Her boldness surprised me – this girl who used to shy away from all adults, even those she knew well.
Who I thought she was, isn’t who she is now.
So often the layers of trauma, negative experiences and emotions bury who we really are – who we were created to be.
There are times when those layers begin to fall away and the truth is revealed. The truth of who we were created to be.