Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Are you Killing their Spirit?

Most days I feel like I don't know much. I am definitely in a survival phase, coping with the busyness of life, work, home, family. Many different schedules working and flowing together (and apart) in a constant manner. It's like the hamster wheel, always rushing, always going, never feeling ahead. 

Obviously, that's not the case. Time marches forward. The marriage relationship changes and deepens. The child becomes more articulate and aware. While we are distracted with the comings and goings of everyday life, we grow wiser. Experience molds us and calibrates decisions. There is a work going on in us as we go about our individual norms. 

As Bryan and I wade into the waters of parenting - not just the keeping him alive, providing healthy foods, changing diapers and monitoring amounts of sleep - but the actual refining of Shepherd's character, walking him through tough situations, teaching him and pouring into him, I get weary. At every turn, we are correcting. Sometimes it feels we are correcting all day. 

Objectively, I know that we are addressing behavioral issues that must be reigned in, not squashed. But when, over the course of one day, I'm correcting him over and over, I wonder if it makes him feel more agitated. As though he can't do anything right.

Then the other night, as I lay in bed alone and as Bryan sat in the living room and watched TV, I thought about how it used to be a big deal to me to go to sleep with Bryan. I enjoyed ending the day together. Cuddling. It felt safe and secure. Bryan hated this. He's a night-owl by nature and he doesn't like to go to bed "early." "Early" for him is 10:30/11, which is late for me. I'd stay up as late as I could and still function the next day, just so we'd go to bed together, but that made me a nasty person the next day.

With him working nights and wanting to enjoy the nights he has off (which are my work nights), we don't go to bed together much anymore. And when we do, we are on our phones. Him on Reddit and me checking social media and my alarm clocks for the next morning. I go to bed alone more often than I go to sleep with him and it always feels so lonely. I've become accustomed to it, because he doesn't like to go to bed at the same time I do, but my feelings towards it hasn't changed. They've just re-calibrated to suit him. 

As I lay there thinking about Shepherd and how it seemed like he couldn't do anything without some degree of correction, and about myself, letting go of something that was once important to me, I wondered am I correcting Shepherd or am I breaking him? Is the arrangement Bryan and I wordlessly slipped into productive for both of us? Or did my resolve for intimacy just wear down over time in order for me not to break his night-loving spirit? 

I then thought about Bryan. What had I done, intentionally or not, to break his spirit? Over the course of our relationship, I always encouraged his music career even though it was in my best interest not to. I've actually laid down a lot of my own dreams for Bryan to pursue his. Then, a small gesture, his hair. I've never been a fan of guys with long hair. It irks me. Yet, Bryan's hair is almost as long, actually, maybe even longer, than my hair. 

As I further reviewed our history, our relationship has had difficult times and there was a season where I was less trusting of Bryan and his ability to make good decisions among his close friends and family members. Time and again I would have reservations, he'd go anyways and my fears would come to pass. I became less than willing to support these events, with good reason, but did I unknowingly, in my attempt to keep Bryan from being an idiot (and keep me from having to leave a relationship when I was so desperately in love), destroy relationships with people he cares about? It seemed a wash. Definitely a selfish component, but also an intense desire for Bryan to make good decisions. 

This made me think... in relationships, do we allow the ones we love to freely be themselves without trying to correct, reduce or adjust them? Do we do so unknowingly? Over the course of the next few days, I started to notice things people would say. I tried to hone in. At what point are you encouraging and helping the people you love to be better and at what point are you breaking what makes them unique and special? 

This doesn't have to just be in romantic relationships. Do we limit our ability to connect with others because we force them to hide the parts of themselves that we don't appreciate? I've been excited about starting a few new bible studies, but I haven't posted about them because I know I have a few friends that wouldn't appreciate my excitement. A friend recently revealed that they were involved in something that I have always been more conservative about. And for a while was flat out against. I found, through slips here and there, that it was happening and I could also feel the surprise at my lack of reaction over it. There has now been more open dialogue about it. I'm not exactly jumping for joy over the situation, but I accept that is where they are in their life at the moment and it's not my duty to change it. It's my duty to love them unconditionally and smack them if it becomes a problem, which is allowed in close relationships, I think. We all need people to smack us around.

However, I have been more aware of ways that I could overstep, especially in parenting. I've started to pay more attention to Shepherd as a whole - not just what he was doing in the moment. I've pulled back on correcting every decision Shepherd makes. In my quest to have a well behaved and kind hearted boy, I refuse to dull his light. He's a little boy. He needs to jump around, climb on the couches, fight imaginary monsters. But he needs to know not to jump in the shower, not to climb in the kitchen, not to hit his cousins or friends. My job is to teach him the difference, not to keep him from being a little boy. 

I'm also still searching for how I may have changed Bryan from the boy I fell in love with, the boy who loved Jesus and exploring off limit areas, to who he is now. There are natural changes that happen when two kids fall in love, but trying to identify what is natural in a relationship and what is overbearing is not only interesting to me, but something I want to rectify if possible. 

All that to say, as I move forward in old and new relationships, I want to be sure that I am not breaking what drew me to the person in the first place. I want to lift up and encourage the light in others - not dim it. 


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