Your Child is an Alien

We sat in silence, not saying a word.  At the base of Himalayas, in a small village in this man’s barren backyard, on wooden boxes, sipping tea.  I’ll never forget that feeling.

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Neither one of us knew the other’s language and so, in some unspoken language, we decided just as the sun was dropping beneath the horizon to get to know each other in silence.

And the silence was something so sacred, so bonding in that moment that I’ll never forget it.

I yearned so deeply to understand these village people and yet, I didn’t speak their language.

They were like aliens to me.

Something so familiar to me in their humanity and graciousness and then, there was this incredibly vast undiscovered territory of their life experience that I so longed to know about.  I was struck by a mixture of familiarity and extreme exotic.

Was it only language that kept us apart from one another?  How could I bridge that gap?  Is there a world beyond language?

The ‘gap’ question burned inside of me, with a deep yearning to understand this ‘alien’.

I’m remembering this story today to tell to you about my adventures fifteen years ago at the base of the Himalayas because we hear the same thing from parents every day.

What’s the problem?

Your child is behaving in such a way that is incomprehensible to you.  Maybe your child’s behavior is ‘illogical’ or even, ‘unacceptable’ by your standards as a parent.

And, in those moments when your child seems like a complete stranger, it happens.

It doesn’t just happen to you, but this is happening to all parents around the world just wanting their children to behave in a certain way at a certain time and those kids are just not doing it.

This thing happens and you begin to place your child on the ‘other side of the fence’, away from you, (on a wooden box at the base of the Himalayas)….your child becomes something ‘other’ and you begin to label and judge your child’s behavior.

We all do this.  It’s not that out of the ordinary.

So, let’s call a spade a spade then.

Your child, for all effective purposes, in those moments, has become an alien to you.

So, what do we do as parents with our little aliens?

Do we talk a little louder?  Scream and yell?  Try punishing them?  Take something away? Maybe offer up some rewards?

Or maybe, just maybe it’s time to try something new.

Maybe it’s time to get really really curious about this little alien as if he was from a distant land speaking a language that you don’t understand and may never will.  How would you bridge the gap?  How could you possibly seek to understand?

It was at the base of the Himalayas and the evening had come now so the stars were out shining.  We sipped our tea and then …..

I smiled and made some funny hand gestures.  No response.

Ok, some more hand gestures and my broken French…the only other language I really speak.

Still nothing.  The ‘alien’ just stared back at me.

But, there must have been something in my tone or hand gestures or just in my pure desire to connect and understand him that it finally happened….

He smiled back…

And began to tell me his whole story with his hands and sounds in a language that I should have never understood.

Yet, that night, I did.