Err on the side of love

Last year when I started my garden, I had no idea what I was doing. This year I at least have some idea of how little I know, so I consider that progress.

Last year I started almost everything as a plant, with a few seeds sown directly into my planter boxes and grown outside. About a month (maybe even more) after I began the garden, though, I decided to try starting some tomatoes from seed, and so I did that, inside, until they were big enough to transplant. I then moved them to their designated planting spots, where they promptly turned white and tried to die. If you’re a seasoned gardener, you know this is because I knew nothing about hardening them and my poor little tomato seedlings went into shock. They didn’t die, but it was touch and go for a while, there.

This year I’ve been taking my seedlings out to the deck and arranging and rearranging them, trying to help them acclimate, trying to make sure they’re truly ready for full days of Georgia sun before I let them take root in the ground.

And so yesterday when Monkey came home from school, head hanging, despondent over a bad day, I made him come out on the porch with me and sit and talk while I fiddled with the plants.

Monkey is simultaneously one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever known and one of the most rageful. We joke about him “going Hulk,” and with good reason. True to his black and white life outlook, Monkey is sweetness and light right up until the moment when he reaches anger, and then, Lord, look out. He’d struck out against another student—and yes, he thought he had reason, but that doesn’t even matter—and I struggled with how to get through to him on this. Because he doesn’t think in those moments of rage. He is a danger at those times; to himself, and increasingly to others.

It scares me. It’s a big part of why I am fearful for him in general.

“Monkey, have you ever heard this expression? I think I’ve told it to you before. Listen: Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a battle.

“I think you said that before,” he said. “But not everyone is fighting a battle. That’s dumb.”

We were, by then, sitting together on our porch swing. I picked up his hand and held it. “It really isn’t, sweetie. You’re thinking ‘battle’ like knights and swords. Think about ‘battle’ as ANYTHING that’s hard.” He furrowed his brow, and rubbed Licorice’s head. “See?” I pressed. “Everyone has something hard going on that they have to deal with. And you don’t know. You CAN’T know.”

“But—” he started, ready to tell me (again) why this other child in class deserved his wrath.

“No but,” I said. “A lot of people don’t know you have Asperger’s. Does that mean you don’t have it?”

He looked at me like I was being ridiculous. “No, of course not.”

“Right!” I said. “Just because they can’t SEE it doesn’t mean you’re not struggling with it. ARE you struggling with it sometimes?”

He looked down at his lap. “Most of the time,” he muttered.

“Right,” I said, again, but softer this time. “And you’re not the only one, Monkey. Everyone is fighting a battle. Yours is with this. Other people have other issues. The thing to remember is that the kid being mean to you has his own stuff going on, and it has nothing to do with you.”

“Like maybe he had a really bad day? Or maybe he’s sick?” He seemed to be getting it.

“Exactly. Now let me ask you something. Did you feel bad, today, after what happened?”

His shoulders slumped again. “You know I do,” he said.

“I’m going to tell you a secret, Monkey. You never feel bad when you err on the side of love. When you put out love, and compassion, or even just tolerance in the form of walking away from when you think is someone being mean to you. That never feels like this, afterward. It only feels like you were kind, and that will always feel better than that momentary need to get revenge, or whatever. Do you understand?”

He leaned into me for a hug, and nodded into my shoulder. “You are one of the sweetest, kindest people I know,” I told him, while breathing in the sweaty scent of his tousled hair. I stopped and kissed his head, then continued, “You’re making YOUR battle harder when you forget that. Have compassion. Put out there what you want back from others, you know? You can’t go wrong with more love, kiddo. And I know you have plenty to give.”

He perked up a little, then said he wanted to go inside because it was too hot. I sent him in with the dog, but stopped to collect up my seedlings, which had had enough sun for the day.

I briefly thought about the parallel between these fragile plants and my own tender sprout of a boy, except that I’m supposed to harden the plants and I feel like my job as a parent right now is to somehow prevent the hardening of this child.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. Here’s to all of us being more mindful of the invisible battles raging around us, and erring on the side of love.

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39 Responses to “Err on the side of love”

  1. 1
    Kim W. April 29, 2010 at 2:06 pm #

    Lovely, Mir. Thank you for this.

  2. 2
    paige April 29, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    Yes and yes and yes.

    My philosophy of life.

    Kids are kids. People are people. Everyone is struggling. Our job is to somehow learn how to struggle along together.

  3. 3
    Spinoff April 29, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    “You never feel bad when you err on the side of love.”

    Oh, yes.

  4. 4
    Jenn C. April 29, 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    That’s one of those lessons that we all need to be reminded of every once in a while. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. 5
    Aubri April 29, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    Oh Mir! What a sweet moment… :-) That helped me today too.

  6. 6
    Sara April 29, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    tears…on my cheeks….*sniff*

  7. 7
    dad April 29, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    Sweet sprouts bear tender fruit. The efforts of nurturing have rich rewards. Stay the course and don’t forget to cherish every moment.

  8. 8
    Jean April 29, 2010 at 2:34 pm #

    Mir, I need you by my side every day to help me as a parent. You are insightful, kind and both of your kids are so lucky to have you.

  9. 9
    Ariel April 29, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    And now I’m weeping from the loveliness of this.

  10. 10
    Jess April 29, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    Thanks, Mir.

  11. 11
    Burgh Baby April 29, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    Beautiful.

  12. 12
    Crisanne April 29, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    Such lovely words, Mir. Keep reminding him of his true spirit and it will prevail.

  13. 13
    RuthWells April 29, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    “You never feel bad when you err on the side of love.”

    Perfect and brilliant. Thank you for sharing this. I’m going to steal it…

  14. 14
    Mary Fran April 29, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    Yup – stole Kira’s for today’s Facebook update. Stealing yours for tomorrow. I think my middle child, only daughter, needs this message as she is constantly choosing meaness to those around her these days.

  15. 15
    JenM April 29, 2010 at 3:16 pm #

    Reminds me of the little poem:
    You may regret that you stayed or went
    You may regret how much you spent
    But as you go through life you’ll find
    You’ll never regret that you were kind

    {{{hugs}}} to you and Monkey.

  16. 16
    mamabird April 29, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    I just watched the movie Adam last night. It was beautiful.

  17. 17
    Nicki April 29, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    Okay, from now on I’m going to channel you when the kids have issues. You are amazing.

    Thanks for that gentle reminder…I need to err on the side of love more often.

  18. 18
    Dani April 29, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    Such beautiful words and a perfect reminder.
    Thank you for helping to change my day around and remind me to be a bit brighter.

  19. 19
    Jeannette April 29, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

    You should take these Love Thursday posts and make them into a book. Also I love your Dad’s comments – you shuold add them too ;).

  20. 20
    Diahn Ott April 29, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    Beautiful. Thank you.

    *sniff*

  21. 21
    Jennifer Joyner April 29, 2010 at 5:33 pm #

    Wow…I know Monkey must benefit from your wisdom, because I do, and I’m 37! Thanks, Mir.

  22. 22
    Melissa April 29, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    Oh, beautiful.

  23. 23
    Heather April 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm #

    *sniff*

  24. 24
    Crissy April 29, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    I so look forward to your “Love Thursday” posts. Thank you…

  25. 25
    Jamie April 29, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

    Amen, amen!

  26. 26
    Amy April 29, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

    That is perfect.

    I had to physically pull a large aspie 8th grade kid off another 8th grade kid in one of those moments of rage a couple weeks ago. Oh, man, do I get what you are saying.

  27. 27
    Lylah April 29, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

    Think of it as acclimation, rather than hardening. Then the parallel works.

    (((Hug)))

  28. 28
    Rachel April 29, 2010 at 11:13 pm #

    I’ve been a lurker for a while, but this post so moved me that I had to post. THANK YOU, Mir, for sharing your lesson learning so honestly.

    I’ve heard it said that we should “act in the opposite spirit”. So, when met with hatred, or anger, or simply someone’s bad attitude, we respond in opposite kind: love, mercy, and encouragement. It’s stops bad vibes right in their tracks.

  29. 29
    mamaspeak April 30, 2010 at 2:08 am #

    You are so wise Mir. I believe that things happen for reasons, not all things maybe, but important ones. It’s obvious to me that you were given a child like Monkey, because you are so wise and able to communicate it. In my case, I’d be flailing miserably, I’m sure. There are things I’m good at, things that my children will struggle with and I will be able to help them with, that’s why we’re together. (That’s what I believe.) But, wow, you put so much in perspective for me & I’m grateful for it. I pray you’ll continue to share these insights with us, I’m a better parent for it.
    Thank you.

  30. 30
    Megan April 30, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    Lovely.

  31. 31
    JennyM April 30, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    Hugs all around — for Mir, Monkey and the tomato plants.

    (PS — this is a lesson I’ve been working hard to instill in myself. I’m hoping with practice it will become easier and more-second nature to respond with patience and love instead of instant cynicism and anger — it’s got to be healthier, too, I figure. But, even if it doesn’t ever get easier, I’ll keep trying.)

  32. 32
    Aimee April 30, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    One of these days I’ll remember to read your blog BEFORE I put on my (non-waterproof) mascara. That is some great advice you gave Monkey, and something I am trying hard to learn, myself.

  33. 33
    Kelly April 30, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    Lovely.

  34. 34
    s April 30, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    I truly don’t know how you do it. I err on the side of coming down hard on my son because I feel like he doesn’t “get” my message softly, but I feel in doing so I’m building a wall. How the heck do you balance getting the message across that certain behavior is unacceptable while still allowing the boy getting the message to have some grace? Sigh…I wish I could bottle you and put you on my shoulder!

  35. 35
    amy April 30, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    Love this post. And love your dad’s comment. I too have to remember to err on the side of love. I oft times retaliate too, instead of turning the other cheek and loving. Thanks for such a gentle reminder…for us, and for Monkey.

  36. 36
    Cele May 1, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    Thank you for the lessons Mir. My grandson has Asperbergers too, my friend’s son has it as well. This will be a helpful tool.

  37. 37
    Julie May 1, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    Wonderful, just wonderful. I’m going to try to remember these words. Thanks for sharing.

  38. 38
    Heather Cook May 1, 2010 at 7:54 pm #

    That is awesome and just what I needed to hear so I can pass it on to my own Hulk!

  39. 39
    Tracy May 3, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    Gosh, why didn’t I find the time to read this Thursday. Last week was awful. I’m glad I went to this first thing today…now, my Monday doesn’t seem so bad. Thanks, Monkey and you too, Mir.

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