Soft Place to Fall

>> Sunday, November 14, 2010

I took the boys to the Arboretum last week, determined to get outdoors and enjoy one of the last warm days of the season. We had a fabulous, fancy-free time of running around and exploring. While in the Children's Garden, Lucas wanted to climb through this big spider-web thing (ropes put together to resemble a web, meant for kids to play on). Of course seeing his older brother do it, Caden had to get on and climb too even though he was a bit too small and uncoordinated to do it well. Caden quickly tired of it but Lucas stuck it out. He got to the highest point, somewhere near the middle, and suddenly got a bit nervous. I knew he could get down himself but he wasn't so sure. He started to get visibly afraid and asked me to come get him. Well, that was WAY easier said than done. I couldn't really reach him without climbing up myself or going under the whole structure to lift him out. I tried to talk him into climbing just a step or two further (which he could have totally done) and then he would have seen he could just climb the rest of the way down. But seeing that he was getting all worked up, I got on my hands and knees and crawled under the ropes to lift his feet up and help him take the next step over. Once he saw he could do it, he crawled all the way down and then did the whole thing, start to finish, several times more. But had I not been there to help him over the hurdle, I'm not sure how long he would have stayed at that point that he thought he couldn't cross.

I stood there watching him and was reminded of a poignant phrase a friend had recently shared with me. We were talking about motherhood and she was sharing with me the things that she prays for when she asks God to help in her interactions with her children. She continually prays that she would be a "soft place for them to fall." A soft place for them to fall. This phrase has been floating around my head ever since.

I am still very much trying to figure out what this means for me as a mother, how I can become this for my boys. But as I think about it, two things are jumping out at me. First, that they will fall. And I need to be OK with that. They need to fall. It is a healthy part of growing, both physically and emotionally and spiritually, etc... I can't stop them from having moments when gravity or the world or their first crush or their parents disappoint them. They will fall off their bikes and they will have moments of disillusionment with school and life and people they love. But my job as mother is not to prevent those moments. It is simply to be a soft place for them to fall when they do occur.
And what does it mean to be a soft place for them? This is such a visual image for me that I am having trouble putting it into words. But I think it means being open and available for them. It means creating a relationship with my sons in which they know if they are ever in need that I am here. It means holding them and letting them be mad or upset- letting them feel what they are feeling and not just smooth over that part. It means giving them tools to deal with the "fall" and the strength to get back up. Being a soft place for my boys is being that place of unconditional love where they can be exactly who they are and feel safe and cherished no matter what else is going on around them.

More practically (and most pertinent to the present), to be a soft place for them I need to put aside my own frustrations with their behavior and learn to deal in private and not in front of them. The whining of my very sensory-sensitive 4yr old drives me insane. He gets very upset when his yogurt drips on his hands or the table among lots of other things. He is a very smart boy with very specific ideas of how things should go. If we deter from that, he sometimes has a hard time. And admittedly, these quirky things about him get to me at times. But in my quest to be a "soft place" for him, I need to accommodate him as much as I can and gracefully teach him to "chill out" when I simply can't (or shouldn't) bend to all his requests.

Like I said, I am still asking God to show me the ways I can be a "soft place" for my boys. I keep trying to picture myself as a cloud that comes up around them and protects them from harm or eases their load. And so far, keeping mindful of this phrase, this prayer, is helping me be more aware of my interactions with them and the ways I am not living this way yet. My prayer is that God would help me see the times when they need me to crawl under them and give them that little boost they need to get over whatever hurdle is in their path. And that God would give me the grace and wisdom I need to be their "soft place" when they need one.

Lord, make me a soft place for them to fall.

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Melinda November 15, 2010 at 11:53 AM  

A beautiful post Farrah. And a strong message that I needed today!

Ashley November 29, 2010 at 6:19 PM  

Thought I commented already, but if I didn't, you should know this touched my heart so much that I think I read it everyday. And.... "soft place to fall" is the title of the next song by yours truly. I'm sure you inspired many from this blog, but betcha didn't think it would be me to write, and ponder, how God is that way for us as well. Thank you for this -- was (and still is, and will be for all the days I read it) a blessing. You are an amazing writer by the way.

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