A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary. – Dorothy Canfield Fisher
As mothers we are always looking out for our children’s well-being and best interests. At the same time we endeavour to raise strong, confident youngsters who can stand up for themselves and solve problems that they may encounter.
It can be a tough balancing act at times trying to figure out what might be a serious issue that requires our help and what is merely a ploy to gain our attention. Is that tummy ache a symptom of the flu making its rounds or a bid to avoid a test at school or the piano lesson for which they failed to prepare? Is that claim of a bodily injury cause for concern or a feigned put-on to soothe their hurt feelings? Is that piercing scream an indication of a life-threatening situation or a meltdown because someone touched their toys?
Mothers are usually pretty good at discerning the differences when it comes to their child’s reactions and behaviours, but even the most doting parent and best maternal instincts can be wrong. It happened to me and I still feel bad about it.
We were holding a memorial service for my late mother-in-law. The family and some parishioners had gathered at our little Orthodox church just outside of Rama. Typical of such services, all of the family members stood in a semi-circle at the front of the church holding candles. Our son, who was about 7 years old at the time, asked to hold one and so we let him.
Now for those of you unfamiliar with our Orthodox services, let me just say that they can be rather lengthy, so a good deal of patience (and stamina) is sometimes required (particularly for children). Add in the fact that the liturgy is very traditional in nature and you have the makings for a fidgety child. But we always expected our children to be on their best behavior and they knew this.
We were well into the service when my son suddenly leaned against me and wrapped one arm around my leg in almost a hugging manner. I thought that he was a bit too old for such behavior and was acting rather babyish. So I gently pried him away from me, told him to stand up and stood him straight, only to have him faint dead-away from me in the opposite direction. Before anyone could catch him, he hit the bare wooden floor with a resounding thud!
It seems that the candle which he had been holding below his nose had snuffed out his oxygen. He hadn’t been acting like a baby; he had only grabbed onto his mother because he needed help. And what had I done? I had denied my little boy some assistance and had even pushed him away!
Thank goodness he wasn’t injured, but I felt terrible about the entire matter. It’s a good thing that children are resilient and don’t hold grudges!