A few months ago, we moved to a new town. It’s not far from where we used to live, but it is a different town. Here we can see the mountains from the kitchen window while we eat breakfast. It’s beautiful. But like any big change, moving can be anxiety-provoking and make us feel quite vulnerable. I’ve thought about things like,
“Are people nice here? Will our children make friends? Will kids be nice to them? Will we be left out? Will people be kind?”
We all want our children to be safe, to be regarded, and to belong.
The first week we moved in, two of our neighbors brought us homemade treats. It was so delightful. Then I started to notice that there aren’t children immediately around us who are my children’s ages. There are a lot of older people and families with grown children. There is no park that I’ve found where children hang out at after school. I don’t see children running around, riding their bikes, or playing ball in the yard. And now that winter is here, it’s just…quiet. My kiddos, our pup, and I go out every day into our backyard and play soccer. But, I wonder, “Is this okay with my children? Are they missing out because we don’t have tons of children running around? Are they going to miss out on a happy childhood because of this?”
Last week, I called my mom and told her what I was thinking and the anxiety I had.
My mom said something that changed my whole outlook. “Lisa,” she said, “The quiet that your home offers is a blessing for your children. When the world is noisy, when your children encounter harshness, when they have been working hard all day at school and encountering all sorts of scenarios, they come home to a sanctuary. They can rest there. Them coming home to such a sanctuary will be a blessing that stays with them over time. It is a gift that you and Brian are giving them. Don’t worry. They have friends and they see lots of people. And you’ll make new friends. You and Brian offer your children a sanctuary. And this experience will be with them into adulthood.”
I never thought about that.
We are sanctuary for our children.
Our home is a sanctuary.
As an extrovert, I love having people over and having people around. But I also like my quiet time. With both of my children in school all day, I can see why they love to come home and just BE HOME. They need the quiet, sanity, spaciousness, and sanctuary of our home and our presence.
This got me thinking about all of us as parents are sanctuary for our children. And the environment we create at home supports our children being “out in the world:”
- to have resiliency in challenging situations,
- to remember their worth when they are left out,
- to remember they are more than a low test grade,
- to remember to be a compassionate presence when they see others who are hurting,
- to remember they are loved when they get other kinds of messages.
- to make wise decisions when faced with difficult situations with possibly devastating consequences.
Our home can be a sanctuary for our children. Our presence can be a sanctuary for our children.
Sanctuary is “a place of refuge or safety…a port in the storm.”
And our children need this. Because they will encounter many storms.
Even at the best of schools, even at the most intentionally hand-picked extracurricular activities, our children encounter harshness. Someone will tell our children, “You don’t belong here.” Someone will say, “I did better than you. I’m smarter than you.” Someone will say, “You can’t sit here with us.” Someone will tease them. Someone will say, “You suck at that.” Someone will not invite them to the party that everyone is going to. Someone will offer them alcohol, pot, or heroine. Someone will ask them to “make out” in the bathroom or under the bleachers. Someone will push them to start a fight with them.
The reality is that as our children get older, we cannot control everything that happens “out there.” And I find that I’m trying to control those settings less, and more and more I see my role as me and our home being a sanctuary, a port in the storm, that supports my children in having a deep sense of resiliency to encounter difficult situations “out there” in the world.
A few months ago, I was talking to a colleague of mine who has been a child therapist for 30 years. “You know what trend I’ve seen over the years?” She said to me. “Children are less resilient. They fall apart much more easily than in the past.”
I have all sorts of theories on why our children may not be as resilient and ideas about how to deepen their resiliency. But this I know for certain: even through the teenage years and into college, we as parents can be a sanctuary for our children that, day by day, builds their inner sense of resiliency.
Our presence and our homes can be sanctuary…
When we pause and look at our children.
When our home is peaceful.
When we slow down and hang out together.
When we get resourced ourselves so that we have “reserve” to offer to our children.
When we listen for the need underneath the behavior.
When we choose less punitive approaches to parenting.
When we choose to connect before we correct.
When we listen.
When we listen.
When we listen.
When we create the space for questions – about sex, drugs, friends, college.
When they get enough sleep.
When they eat nourishing foods.
When we speak their love language.
When we see ourselves as refuge, as sanctuary, in an often busy, harsh, and judgmental world.
When we say, “I love you for you – as you are.”
I sat down last night and wrote this poem for my children. As they go out into the world more and more, I’ll continue to be a safe space for them to come home to, a soft place to land, a sanctuary, a port in the storm. And I thought you all may believe these words, too, and want your children to hear them as well.
I’ll be Your Sanctuary
I’ll be here for you when you get home
to hear about your day at school,
to be a safe place for you to say
what made your heart leap with joy,
what made your heart wilt with sadness.
Whether you aced the math test
or you were left out at recess,
I’ll be your sanctuary.
I’ll be a safe place for you to cry,
for you to wonder why
for you to ask the bigger questions,
for us to hold the difficult answers.
I’ll be the mirror that reflects your light,
the presence that helps you find resiliency
when things don’t go right.
Our home will be a refuge
for you to rest
from the noise of our world,
from the pressures of trying to be the best.
Here you don’t have to achieve more or do more
for us to see
the amazing person you are becoming
and who you want to be.
I’ll be your sanctuary,
holding space for you to grow,
a place for compassion to flow,
a sanctuary for you to know
the beauty of your soul.
So come as you are
With your anxieties and questions,
your moods and your depression.
Come with your joy, your gifts, and your passions.
You’ll always have a soft place to land
when the world is harsh or scary,
because I’ll hold out my hand to you
and I’ll be
Lisa McCrohan © 2017
And as for our new neighborhood…when my children said, “We live on granny lane!” that didn’t stop us from going around and meeting the neighbors! It hasn’t stopped us from enjoying the time the elderly have to pause and talk to you, let you pet their dog, or tell you about a story they have.
I feel blessed because I have two girlfriends in the neighborhood. The other day, one of them said, “We’ll have to invite my son’s friends over and invite your son and introduce them.” My heart just leapt in gratitude. Here was someone going out of her way to think about us being new here and how we might be feeling a bit vulnerable…and lonely. My other dear friend is a love and I can tell her I’m anxious and ask her to “show me the ropes” in this new town. So, slowly I hope we find a place to “fit in” and where our children belong.
Just as we are sanctuary for our children, there are angels “out there” who help us and our children. I am grateful for these angels – those we know, those we are getting to know, and those who we are yet to meet.
I pray that each of us have angels in our lives…and we see our homes and our presence as sanctuary for our children. Yes, you are sanctuary for your children. Let’s support, nourish, and resource each other in being sanctuary for our children. Can you imagine a world where millions of children had the experience of growing up with parents who considered themselves “sanctuary” for their children?!
It takes a dose of focus and devotion. And we’ve got that, friends. We’ve got that.
P.S. Please, don’t try to perfect this sanctuary!!!! We do NOT need another pressure on us as moms. My god. Just begin to see yourself as sanctuary. Begin to see yourself as a soft place to land in a harsh world. Begin to offer cushion, the kind you’d like coming home from being “out in the world.” Your presence is what matters.
Set your child up to thrive.
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