This past weekend, my son and I went up to the local ski resort to enjoy some time on the slopes. I used to snowboard, but three knee surgeries and no cartilage in my right knee mean I watch and coach from below. On the drive up we listened to music and talked about his week at school. The fourth grade is filled with great stories, goofy things he and his friends do and experiments or science projects that far exceed my expectations for a fourth-grade classroom. This kid loves school, is a bit of a thinker and, like all three of my kids, teaches me a lot.
When we arrived, the sky was bright blue, the air a warm 37 degrees, and the ski hill was busy. For four hours, Josh rode the lift and worked to perfect his turns. It was his fifth time up.
We enjoyed our lunch, sat by the fire, talked with friends, and packed up to head down the hill. That's when it hit me.
Do you ever have those days where you're just trucking along, enjoying the simplicity of the day and something comes out of the blue and strikes you? It hits you so hard, you have to take a moment to understand what has just happened.
We were headed down the hill listening to more music, and a few lines from a song struck me.
Of tending to this fire
I've used up all I've collected
I have singed my hands
Embers barely showing
Proof of life in the shadows
Dancing on my plans
I asked my son, “What do you think the writer is saying here? What is he talking about?”
Josh thought for a moment and then answered, “I think he is saying ‘sometimes you’re just done. When life gets hard, it hard to keep going.’”
I don’t know why I asked the next question; it just came out. “Have you ever felt this way?”
The back seat was quiet for a few seconds and then, “Yeah.”
Josh is ten.
“When?” I asked.
“When I was little, and I would get in trouble with you or mom for something, sometimes I wondered if you still loved me. When I felt like that, I wanted to disappear.”
“Even though we always told you there was nothing you could do to change our love for you?” I responded.
“Yeah, because when I was little, I didn’t know it yet.”
My heart broke for a moment. I asked, “How about now that you’re older?”
“No, now I know you love me no matter what.”
I have put a lot of thought into digesting that conversation. A three or four-year-old heart and mind processes things much differently than that of a ten-year-old. But juxtapose my son’s four-year-old heart and mind against my then 37-year-old ones and things suddenly get very eye-opening.
Perspective matters. Thinking back to the times I have had to discipline my kids, I know I approached the situations with my life experiences, my understanding of love, my perspective of forgiveness, responsibility, and accountability. My son only had four years of that, and the difference in those two perspectives is stark. And because I hadn’t recognized this, I had given my boy a moment of doubt.
It turns out the same rules apply to others our same age, or people older than us. Individuals with far more life experience than a four-year-old may have a greater understanding of the things we encounter, but this understanding will differ from our own. No one, not a single person, will have the same perspective as I do. It is essential that I remember this, Whether I am having to discipline my child, have a hard conversation with my wife, or am dealing with the difficulties that come with working with people; I must remember that no one sees things the same as I do.
As parents, spouses, and friends, I can’t help but wonder how many broken hearts and wounded souls could be avoided if we all would seek to understand someone else’s perspective before we react; before we speak.