Today I had a little reminder lesson on something I thought I already knew. Actually a few 'somethings' I already knew, but needed a refresher course on. The topic of today's lesson? "Nothing is ever black or white."
My kids were invited to the Maritime Aquarium today to be part of a commercial the center was shooting for their new Meerkat exhibit. I found out about it last week and decided to keep it a surprise until this morning when the kids woke up. Brandon has been obsessed with sea animals since he was two years old. If he could live in an aquarium he would. Lindsey absolutely loves posing for the camera, so I figured it would be the perfect day for both of them. And it was. Just not in the way I imagined.
As we were getting ready, I told the kids that they had been invited by The Maritime Aquarium to be their special guests for the day. I explained that the director at the aquarium had heard about how much they love sea animals and how kind they are to animals, and he wanted them to have this very special day to celebrate the end of the school year. Thinking that Brandon would rather get shots at the doctor's office than be the center of attention in a big place with people he doesn't know, I waited until we were almost there to mention that there "may" be people taking pictures of them having so much fun on their special day. Figured we take the day moment by moment and only deal with worries as they came up. Well, it was at this moment that my lesson for the day began.
First I hear, "I don't want anyone taking pictures of me. I just want to see the animals!" Then from the other side of the car, "Oh they can take pictures of me mama! I would love to show them how much I love the meerkats!" Typical responses considering the personalities of my two kids, right? Nope. The 'no pictures' plea came from my attention craving daughter. And the excitement for trying something new response? From my attention avoiding son. Just when I thought I had them figured out, they throw this at me. Shades of gray.
We arrive at the aquarium to the publicity director holding a large sign saying "Meerkat Extras" on it. Lindsey loves talking to new people, so she leads us over to the man. "I'm here as your special guest and I love sea animals," says MY SON. And Lindsey? Hides behind me and doesn't want to say hello. Right about now I am thinking I am in some parallel universe like in LOST. I now don't know what to expect from this day.
A friendly woman has me sign model release forms for Brandon and Lindsey and then we sit down to wait for the director. While waiting, Brandon decides to draw a picture of some sea animals and then asks if he can go over and give it to the nice lady who signed us in. That's it. Who is this child and where did my son go????
The director comes in to meet the children one by one and asks them to tell him their names. When he comes up to Lindsey, she comes up close to me, whispers her name, and buries her head in her hands. He moves over to Brandon. At this point, I can't wait to see what this boy in Brandon's body is going to do. "I'm Brandon and I love sea animals. I really love this aquarium." he says confidently.
After that greeting, Brandon is one of the six children chosen to go with the director to be in the central part of the commercial. When he is asked to get up, go with a man he doesn't know, five other kids he doesn't know, to an exhibit he has never been in before, he says, "Bye mom!"
I spend the next two hours watching my son smile at the meerkats for the camera, take direction from the director, and be the center of attention under bright lights in a room full of people he doesn't know. And Lindsey? The director keeps trying to put her in some of the shots, but she just wants to hang with mommy and doesn't want to be in too many of the scenes. Really? My daughter? The girl who will talk to anyone. The one who will dance and sing for any camera on command? My mind was on process overload. What a day!
Nothing is ever black and white. That includes people. I learned today that I can't put my kids in nice neat little boxes with clear cut labels. If I could, it would be much easier for me to understand them and plan accordingly! But it just doesn't work that way. Brandon is not always going to be the worrier, the anxious one. Lindsey isn't always going to be the outgoing, free spirited, confident one. And I will do them a great disservice in life if I try to label them as such. Each new day and event needs to be approached with an open mind. I can't assume I will know how they are going to behave in every situation. I have to really be in the moment and let them show me. I have to continue to let Brandon experience new things and not stay away from those that I think he will not respond well too. He obviously may surprise me! I have to be sensitive to the fact that Lindsey may not always feel self confident and outgoing and adjust for her needs at the time.
I was reminded today to approach each day, each moment with my kids with a clear mind and an open heart. Let go of the expectations of how I think they may behave or of how I think things will be and just let them be. Let what happens, happen. Prepare for situations that may arise, but then let go of the outcome. Don't over plan and and try to control the situation. Give them the opportunity to express their true selves without having to fit into any preconceived perceptions of who they are. Allow them to grow and discover themselves for themselves. They don't need me to tell them who they are. They need the support, love, and freedom to figure that out for themselves.
Nothing and no one is ever black or white.
May your heart be at ease,