My son aged three fell in the nettle bed.
‘Bed’ seemed a curious name for those green spears,
That regiment of spite behind the shed:
It was no place for rest. With sobs and tears
The boy came seeking comfort and I saw
White blisters beaded on his tender skin.
We soothed him till his pain was not so raw.
At last he offered us a watery grin,
And then I took my billhook, honed the blade
And went outside and slashed in fury with it
Till not a nettle in that fierce parade
Stood upright any more. And then I lit
A funeral pyre to burn the fallen dead,
But in two weeks the busy sun and rain
Had called up tall recruits behind the shed:
My son would often feel sharp wounds again.
And so it is. We want to slash and burn all that harms them. We want to protect them from not fitting in, from failing tests that everyone else passed. We want to guard them from the heartache of unrequited love and from the inevitable losses that life will bring.
The modern parent knows about resilience, we know that we have to help our children pick themselves up after a fall and find their feet again and we can do that. The broken-legged-girl is now at home, tottering about ever more confidently with the support of her family. She will heal.
But I’m not sure, that as a parent we ever fully do. Every knock, every, sting, every cross word, from us or other, shaves a bit from our sense of the kind of parent we wanted to be. I have tipped my son, accidentally into a pile of nettles when a van was too close to us on a windy country road. I have shouted at them and made them cry. Not only can I not protect them all the time, sometimes it is I who hurts them.
This week has seen the funeral of a student who left our school in the summer. A talented scientist, with heart condition who died of it within the first term at university. A loss to the world and a void in the life of his parents. I can’t even imagine how they are feeling.
In the face of such things, ‘resilience’ seems a fake and shiny word and will not do.
Instead, I think moments of breaking and stinging and dying require us to grieve. We grieve for their suffering and for our own loss at not being able to keep them safe.
Such moments require humility for the fragility of life and our often-impotence in the face what it brings us.
Such moments require compassion, for those who are suffering and for ourselves as people who suffer with them.
For it seems to me that it is only possible to be resilient when we have experienced grief, humility and compassion first. We need to sink to the bottom of the pool in order to push up again and swim to the bank rather than endlessly treading water, exhausting ourselves with keeping afloat.
ps…If you haven’t done so already check out the Events page to find out more about the Oswestry Red Tent for women, monthly on a Friday at 730pm-9 for £5 the next one is the 17th Nov. I am also running a Red Tent in Ledbury on Friday 1st December 730-9. Then there is the Hygge retreat in Oswestry on Saturday 18th November 10-1230 open to all and taking some time to relax and reflect with meditation, massage and some coaching exercises. On Sunday 3rd December I’ll be giving a free workshop on Stress at the body, mind, spirit show (see flyer below) and I run a number of short courses at the Marches School. There are also some retreats booked for 2018 so nip over the events page to find out more. I look forward to seeing you at some of them.