I like being in charge. Maybe that comes from growing up the oldest of 4 kids. Maybe it comes from hard-wiring. Maybe it comes from deep-seated fears about losing control. Wherever it comes from, I like it.
But lately, I've been practicing not being in charge. I've been practicing allowing.
For example, today, Ben, Silas and I hung out in the loft. While Ben and I talked, Silas played with the vice that's anchored to Ben's desk.
How do you put wood in there and cut it? Silas asked.
You turn the lever so it opens, put the wood in, and tighten it up. Try it. That was Ben.
But I don't have any wood?
There's some in the corner behind you.
Silas turned around and sure enough there were three 2 1/2 foot long 2x4's behind him.
Pick one up and put it in the vice.
This is the point when ever fiber of my body bent toward the boy and the wood, and my mouth started to say with great urgency -- don't pick it up! We will come help you! But just as my mouth was opening and some "d-" sounds were coming out, I looked at Ben who clearly did not share any of my impulses and was happy to let Silas go. So, I bit my tongue (maybe literally).
Silas picked up a piece of wood as tall as himself and carried it to the vice and Ben talked him through it:
Turn the lever... that's right... is it wide enough to put the wood in?
Silas clumsily picked up the wood and diagonally tried to feed it into the gap. Not yet!
Turn it a little more. Now is it open enough?
Again Silas maneuvered the heavy wood up into the vice (which I don't think I mentioned is at shoulder-height) and teetered it somehow into the space firmly enough to let go of it and spin the lever until the wood was firmly inside.
I watched, tense with anticipation of injury, catching myself from rushing in over and over to help. Allowing. Allowing. (my inner mantra) Allowing Ben to instruct Silas. Allowing Silas to wield a huge heavy piece of wood into a vice. Allowing him to learn.
Just as I turned to Ben to tell him how (tentatively) impressed I was with how much he was allowing Silas to do, Silas turned the lever the wrong way and the wood came crashing -- CRASHING -- down on his toe.
I stood there as Ben moved in, lifted Silas, and talked to him in a soft voice. My head erupted into arguments from the I-like-to-be-in-charge voice: I knew he shouldn't have done that alone, I knew that wood was too heavy, I knew he shouldn't be trusted to use giant building materials, I knew I should have said something (this voice knows a lot of things) -- And listening, I knew the best thing to do was to leave the room. And in fact, just as I was about to, Ben mouthed just that.
And so I did. I left my flushed crying boy with the freshly purple toenail and his father. His father. And as I walked down the ladder, down the stairs, out the front door (because I was on my way to Home Depot), I thought about how important it is that they are learning their own way together quite without me. Silas might not do heavy lifting and use a vice with me (ok, he definitely won't). And with his dad, Silas may use a vice and may smash his toe, but he will be all right and his toe will heal too. In the meantime, he and his dad will have moved through something and fixed it together.
And so, my job is to move out and to allow. Lots of rub against the grain. Lots of growing edges.