Well, I got it. We drove and talked. We listened to Tolstoy's How Much Land Does A Man Need. (Good story. I see what Martin means when he explains why he thinks Tolstoy is better than Dostoyevsky. I get it. I'm just not... sold, and just can't... love him. But it's all good, now.) We talked.
We stopped at a neat little place in Cookeville to meet up with friends and enjoy lunch and company. Our waitress was a delightful woman working her way through her PhD in Reading and Literacy. We squealed (we being my friend and I - John doesn't squeal over PhD plans just yet). But it was so very lovely.
And then... you know how you spend all of your parenting effort in trying to make sure you give your child exactly what he needs, or exactly what you would have wanted when you were a child (because let's face it, that's all we actually know for certain)? And you work really, really hard at being The Best Parent and nailing all the things all the time?
Yeah. And you know how that doesn't really work? And sometimes, to draw an illustration, you're pedaling along, thinking you're knocking out 22mph on your parenting bike, with the wind in your hair and the trees whizzing by on your glorious trek, only to find out you're on a stationary bike and not even actually outside, let alone making any legit progress.
I had one of those moments. Turns out, this one would rather have someone understand how not-fun a situation is than have someone brainstorm ways to make it better. That space gives him time to breathe and think it through on his own. That is totally foreign to me, because if something's bothering me and I say, "This is bothering me," I want some action on it, please and thank you. But the whole point of being supportive is that you want to do it in a way that has the outcome of supporting the person, not just the way that seems supportive to you.
But I'm hopeful, because we talked. Or rather, because he talked. I listened. And then he asked me not to think up solutions - just be still and give him my empathy - that that's what he really needed. And I, being wired for fixing things that aren't working, choked back explaining that I am so very empathetic! SO empathetic that I really do feel his anguish and frustration and I WANT TO FIX IT RIGHT NOW AND I CAN THINK OF AT LEAST FOUR REALLY HELPFUL IDEAS RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE... but I'm not saying that because we could both die of irony, right here in the car. (I did tell him a little later how hard it was not to do that, and we laughed.)
I guess I'm hopeful because of the laughter more than the talking. But also because if he hadn't said, "Yeah, that's not working for me," I wouldn't have known. But now I do, and that's encouraging. (It's also hard, and it's not going to be a cake walk trying to make changes, but they are worth making. He is worth making them for.)