In our house, Sundays in summertime are for playing.
We spend our time outdoors…at the park, grilling out, or at the club pool.
In the wintertime however, probably much like your family, we become pajama-clad sloths.
We sleep late, lounge around until noon, and watch old-school cartoons like Garfield and The Smurfs.
My 14-year old daughter sidles right up next to me on Sundays. Most days she is a typically withdrawn teen, but somehow on Sundays she morphs back into a sweet, snuggly toddler.
I adore it.
My 12-year old son is a different story. He does not enjoy snuggling…or physical touch…or honestly, even eye-contact, most days.
I have had years of training (and honestly…some therapy) to be able to process this as an adverse side-effect of his autism, instead of taking it as personal rejection.
And I’m not gonna lie.
Some days, it ain’t easy.
But I’ve learned to let him come and go as he pleases, and that when I can do this, we are both much happier.
I have actually learned a pretty decent life lesson from this dance.
And it goes a little something like this:
I used to try my hardest to reel him in.
If my cute and charming personality wasn’t enough to do it, (it wasn’t) I would use toys, puzzles, movies, gummy bears…anything to get him to come over to me.
Then once he would get within arms reach, I would throw my arms around him and pull him down next to me.
I would hold on for dear life, forcing him into an embrace, begging him to sit with me…yet every time he would wriggle and writhe until I would release him.
He would run off into another room, and stay gone…sometimes all day.
And I would sit and pout.
This brand of forced affection never works out well. As a matter of fact I stopped doing it, because not only is it incredibly self-deprecating, it has never once created actual closeness.
If anything, it has actually driven us further apart from each other.
But here’s the interesting part.
If I leave him alone, he comes around on his own.
When he’s ready.
When he wants to.
On his own terms.
He will walk oh-so-quietly into the room and just stare at me.
For a minute or so, I just ignore him.
He stands there long enough until it is borderline creepy… and then I finally I look at him.
At this point he comes over, climbs in next to me, and makes a little nest.
And he stays there for the longest time.
For years I didn’t understand this.
But now I get it.
I get it a little too much.
There’s a huge difference between feeling trapped and feeling safe.
What do you do when you feel trapped?
Do your best to get away.
You feel suffocated.
Conversely, what do you do when you feel safe?
You feel a sense of calm.
You can exhale.
Allow yourself to feel embraced.
When you feel trapped, you can’t wait to get away.
When you feel safe, you know you are unbound and free to get up and move around if you feel the need, so you are able to truly rest.
Zion is not the only one who doesn’t like feeling trapped.
We all want to feel safe.
We all want a nice comfy nook where we can crawl in and feel surrounded and cared for without feeling suffocated.
Let’s spend more time surrounding ourselves with the people who give us that safe space.
Flee the cage and find your shelter.
One is confining.
The other is home.