I took my kids out for dinner tonight. We don’t do that very often. In fact, all three of us have crazy schedules, so we rarely sit down for a dinner together anymore–at home or elsewhere. I miss that. When they were little, I tried to have regular family dinner time. Sometimes we’d play games like “I spy” or “I’m thinking of an animal…” Sometimes we’d tell jokes or I’d ask what they learned at school that day, and when they responded with “nothing” I’d ask why I bothered to send them, which always ended the same way, them asking to stay home and me giving a list of worse things they’d have to do at home than at school. Sometimes things would get a little out of control, like the time we had a spontaneous burping contest before realizing that the Schwan’s delivery guy was standing at the open door and could hear everything. Or the time I asked them to tell me something I’d never guess about them, and they unwittingly revealed doing things they shouldn’t have done like climbing to the roof of the barn or playing with knives. Of course, in the interest of fairness, their responses generated discussions on the dangers of certain behaviors instead of punishments after the fact. Smart kids.
Now dinner conversations are different since my kids are basically adults. Tonight we talked about a certain person from our past whose name is rarely mentioned. The topic came up because they ran into an old friend while shopping with their dad over the weekend, and this friend asked about him. Wondered if they ever see him or talk to him anymore. Sadly, my kids’ reactions were the same. They both admitted to never even wanting to think of him, let alone talk about him. Said they don’t even like his name anymore. It’s heartbreaking to know that we share such a painful relationship, and even more so knowing that I was the one who let this person into our lives, never dreaming of the damage it would leave us. But it was something slow moving. In the middle of our conversation, Bree said this: a frog will immediately jump out of hot water if dropped into it, but if you start cold and turn up the heat, it will sit in hot water a long time without realizing it. A perfect analogy. We were living with a person who was internally angry and whose method of coping was breaking down the people around him. And maybe he didn’t know. It doesn’t really matter now. Thankfully, we moved on and don’t have to see him again. And tonight, we all admitted that we were ok for having endured this pain. Both kids said they learned valuable lessons. Both said they immediately forgave me. They get it. I hope they carry this maturity into their own relationships and are able to instantly know when something is not right or good for them. I’m thankful we had this conversation tonight. I learned that they may not want to talk about him, but they aren’t worrying about the past. Smart kids, still.