The Truth of Who I Am

"Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free." -Eckhart Tolle

Cabbage Ball Wins and a Tender Moment

on September 23, 2013

There are moments in parenting that have left me at a loss for just the right thing and the right words to say. And in those moments, the best thing I’ve learned to do is to lean in until the lesson is learned.

This past weekend, we went to Charlotte for a family event of cabbage ball (softball with a cabbage-sized ball – a New Orleans thing, I’ve heard). It was the Young ‘Uns v. the Legends. Let me just say that it was quite a moment of realization to discover which team I was on! It didn’t seem to alarm anyone on the team when I asked about the rules of the game, nor did they appear concerned when I asked what to do if I happened to catch the ball while the other team hit the ball (referred to as batting, I believe). It turned out I was on the winning team so nothing else really mattered. And it also didn’t really matter that the winning team MADE the decision that they had won and walked off the field WITH the trophy. Winning isn’t everything, but it was everything on that day. That day, I also won a special opportunity to open my heart a little bit more.

So I was sitting there with my husband, talking and watching and laughing over crazy family talk when our 7 year-old son came up to us with a look on his face that I had learned to recognize over the years. There were no tears flowing, but I knew they were stuck in his throat and that his throat hurt. But not as much as his little heart was hurting. I have come to understand that, for David, the louder the cry, the less hurting there was. This was an inaudible cry. He stood there silently, sniffing and fidgeting with his fingers and then a few tears brimmed over as we asked him what was going on and offered him a hug and a hand. No response from him. He continued to fidget and sniff and try to hold the tears in his throat. After about 5 minutes, I took his hand and suggested we walk away somewhere. He walked with me, digging his face into the side of my waist as we walked. Still holding back his cries and his words. I tried asking questions creatively and from different angles, hoping that he would cave on one of them and then tell me what happened. Still nothing. We finally got to a bench and he sat on my lap. I asked a few more questions.

I REALLY wanted to know. I NEEDED to know. My heart was hurting like it was his own little heart and yet I knew it was not and that, no matter how much I was hurting for him, I could not make that hurting go away. I could not take his pain away. This was another growing up moment for me as a mother. I realized in that moment that he was growing up and that there would be many, many more times when I would not be able to take his pain away. That I would have to step aside and know that his pain, his lessons in life would be for him to get through. Often by himself.

I stopped asking him questions then and pulled him closer to me and just held him and tried to make my love tangible and healing for him. I leaned into this hard moment in which I knew no more questions nor answers. I simply leaned in. It was a tender moment. He was very tender. We sat that way, the two of us and I allowed visions of him, a teenager, a grown man, a father, a spouse feeling pain in his life and having to work his way through it by himself. I prayed that he would always have love surrounding him through his painful times and I felt grateful for this moment of the opportunity to surround him with my love. His breathing slowed down after a while and his hands pulled my arms tighter around him.

I asked another question and explained that I wanted to know so that I could maybe understand and help him think through what had happened. He finally told me. He was playing with his best buddy in the whole world and a few other boys and he (playfully) hurt his best buddy with a hockey stick and one of the other, older kids said he didn’t want to play with him. And they all went off and played without him. Best buddy included. Even though he understood David didn’t mean to hurt him and was not mad at him. The other kids were playing a game he wanted in on and he went off to play with them. David was hurt. Mostly because he felt betrayed but also because he was excluded by a kid who didn’t know him and didn’t understand the special relationship between him and his best buddy. He knew he had made a mistake. He didn’t know how to fix it and he was hurt that his best buddy went off to play with the kid that told him he couldn’t play. Regular kid stuff. But I hurt for my little boy who was hurting and trying to make sense of it all.

David Stop Bullying Sign

David made this sign on a dry-erase board while waiting on his little sister to finish dinner.

And that’s where my experience that has sat with me since my childhood came into play. It was as if the Universe made sense for a moment. I reminded my son of the story I had told him about the two little girls that came over to play with my older sister and I often. About how they came over once and gave my mother an invitation to a birthday party. I was just outside the room and I could hear the older one say to my mother, “We want only Nancy to come. Not Rhina. Just Nancy.” My 6 year-old heart sank to the floor and every doubt I had about my ability to make friends and be loved by people who were not family and, thus, not required to love me, was confirmed in that one instance. I pulled my son closer still and told him that I knew that feeling he was feeling right then. And it seemed okay to me then that I had ever felt that feeling because now I could be there with my beloved son and sit with him and know, really KNOW, what he was feeling. Somehow, being able to have empathy for him made the painful experience I’d had completely worth it in that moment. Maybe all the hard stuff I had ever felt were lessons to prepare me for moments such as this one. That nothing I had ever endured was in vain.

We were eventually able to talk a little and I threw out a few reminders of how wonderful and amazing he is and how sometimes he would meet people who didn’t see his beautiful spirit – his Divine spirit. The same Spirit that was a part of them, too. I reminded him that he needed to try to see their Divine spirits no matter how angry he felt. He didn’t buy much of what I said. He picked up a stick and wrote in the sand, “He is mean.” He wasn’t on board with the idea that he shared the same spirit with the kid who hurt him. Not in that moment. But I hoped that someday he would remember and give the idea a fair chance. We continued to sit there for a while longer as he grappled with what to do with his feelings.

When he was ready we held hands and headed back to the rest of the family and the games and the trash-talking. He was able to salvage the rest of the afternoon and he and his best buddy found their way back to each other as magnets often do. I watched him and felt the joy I often feel when I see him happy. The world returned to normal again. But the little piece of my heart that was opened up to the realization that I would not always have the opportunity to know and console and love my son stayed open. And I was reminded once again of the depth of pain and joy that is mothering. After all, my children are my teachers and opening my heart up is what I’m here to do. They teach me every day.

We won in more ways than one that day. Cabbage ball may have hurt a little as I, literally, slid this legendary body into first base after getting over my surprise at making contact AND hitting the ball a reasonable distance in the right direction. But winning an opportunity to lean into a painful moment with my son was priceless.

Truthfully yours,



6 responses to “Cabbage Ball Wins and a Tender Moment

  1. Shaunne says:

    Yes Rhina this was beautiful day however you left out the part where the LEGENDS cheated their way to victory, lol.

    • justrhina says:

      LOL, Shaunne!!! Funny thing is I don’t seem to recall that ever happening. Must be because I’m of the legendary age. Oh well… We were fair winners in my mind.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Awesome. I hope be a mother like you one day.

    • justrhina says:

      πŸ™‚ Thanks. Parenting is wonderful but also the most humbling thing I’ve ever done because I’ve come to learn how much more I am human rather than awesome. But then again – it’s awesome to be human.

  3. The Truth of you my dear Chica Rhina is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen today! Continue to bring tears streaming down my face; you are AMAAAAZING — as a mother, a friend, a womyn, as a HUMAN BEING. I am so blessed to share space and time with your Divine Spirit!

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