I’ve never watched an episode of Mr. Rogers. We simply didn’t get the station on our small T.V. out in rural Manitoba. Whatever which way you bent those wire hanger antennas, it didn’t matter. But luckily, we did get these two happy fellas:
I watched the documentary ‘Won’t you be my Neighbor’ on Netflix this week to see what Fred Rogers was all about. Do you ever hear a line in a movie and have an A-ha moment?
At one point, Mr. Rogers sadly declares: “A child is appreciated for who he will be, not who he is.” I hit the space bar to pause and let this swirl in my head for a while.
I immediately thought of my three step-kids.
I don’t know what kind of special powers some people are born with to connect and fully appreciate small children, but this was never in my strands of DNA. The amount of mental bending that I had to do once I became a full-time step-mom to three kids could be a Houdini trick. Did I appreciate who my step-kids were when they came to live with us? Well, that’s a nice thought, but if I’m being honest, the first few months could best be described as “Survival Mode.” (Read as: Fending off insanity.)
Three children who had three different sets of personalities that I had nothing to do with building became a battle of different values. In a justice system that does not favour giving full custody to the father, my husband had worked hard and received sole custody. This might tell you something about the place they were coming from. We had a lot of counselling ahead of us. A lot of trial and error. Hence: Survival Mode. (The actual “Thriving” came later.)
I’ve been a step-mom for over six years now. When I heard those words from Mr. Rogers, It made me think about how I’m often consumed about who they will become. It’s based in fear. I want them to be good, smart, decent, happy human beings that can eventually take care of themselves. I worry about it all the time! I worry about it so much, that I am missing big chunks of who they are right now.
Of course, I have moments of gratitude when I talk with them or see them succeeding in life, but all too often my mind is in the future. It’s a skill for me to stay present, a work in progress to look at them one at a time and just appreciate who they are this very minute.
The other day, our oldest son let out a huge laugh. This is something he normally does, but this time when he did it, it was as though my mind took a mental picture of him. I was totally present and it felt good.
Seems Mr. Rogers can teach you a lesson at any age.