You come into my house, and I am twirling, spiraling, dancing: half-delirious with joy and excitement. There are things I want to show you, share with you… Are you ready? I take your hand and dance with you through the hallway—walls, floors, baseboards!* —and into the place-space I really want to show you, the space most precious to me, my space.

I stand at its threshold, and beam. Spread my arms open and spin around: it’s tiny, but it’s mine, all mine, and it’s real-rebuilt-unspoilt. As I spin, I point to my little desk, and the couch-I-can-lounge-on-or-invite-friends-to-crash-on, and the rug no-child-or-dog-has-peed-on-yet, and the old, dusty Tiffany lamp Sean got me for a birthday way back when, and the little shelf of beloved-books that are there, within hand’s reach of me when I sit on the couch, and the window through which speckles of sunlight-and-outdoor-fairy-dust come in, and…

Mine, all mine, precious to me, and I am so happy, so happy to share it with you. Because I love you.

And you…

You look around, at this space-that-is-me, that is my heart-mind-made-into-place, and you say…

“Sort of a sloppy paint job, eh? I can see the spots you missed on the ceiling.”

And you say…

“Is that an Ikea sofa bed? I can’t stand Ikea furniture. And that colour… grey? What were you thinking?”

And you say…

“That Mexican blanket is so frayed and worn. Plus–taaacky! You should just throw it out.”

And you say…

“That secretary desk just doesn’t belong there at all.”

And you say…

“Why did you put a white rug there? You know it’s only going to get filthy, and you know you’ll never clean it.”

And you say…

“Is that the picture that was in your bedroom before? I’ve never liked it.”

You are in this space-that-is-me, my heart-mind-made-into-place, and you are violating me with every word.

I collapse into my grey—cheap, unfashionable, whatever, MINE, and it does what I need it to do—Ikea couch, wrap the frayed blanket (I LOVE IT) around me and turn away from you (I HATE YOU right now) and look at my shelf of beloved-books-that-always-make-me-happy and I reach out for one of them.

And you say…

“Jesus, are you still obsessed with Jane Austen? I don’t get how you can re-read those books over and over and over again. They’re so boring. Can’t you find something more interesting, more productive to do with your time?”

And our relationship is over. You never get to come into space-that-is-me, my-heart-mind ever again.


You’ve never done this to me. You would never do this to me. As you read the story above—you were appalled, were you not? You thought, I know you did—what sort of terrible, terrible person would ever do that to a friend?

And yet… the average well-meaning, loving parent… does something like this… ALL THE TIME… to children.



You come into their world, their moment, their space, their joy—and there they are, twirling, spiraling, dancing: half-delirious with joy and excitement. There are things they want to show you, share with you… Are you ready? They want to show you/tell you about their space-place-passion-joy, and it doesn’t matter what it is: an arrangement of sticks, a new graphic novel, a Youtube video that’s touched off something inside them, this cool thing they’ve built in Minecraft, a new Barbie doll outfit, what Sophia said at the playground. The way they’ve stacked their cars, rearranged their stuffies. Reorganized your kitchen cupboards.

It is a thing that is precious to them, and they are so happy, so happy to share it with you. Because they love you.

And you…

You look at what they are baring to you, and you say…

“What a mess!”

And you say…

“Did you spend the whole day watching Youtube videos again?”

And you say…

“I don’t get why you keep on reading crap like this.”

And you say…

“What a waste of time.”

And you say…

“Can’t you ever put your things away?”

And you say…

“I don’t understand why you hang out with her.”

And you say…

“Can’t you find something more interesting, more productive to do with your time?”

You are violating them with your every word.

And your relationship is over.

It won’t die the first time you do this. No. It will take a while.

But eventually… you will never get to come into space-that-is-them, their-heart-mind-space ever again.


Children give their heart-mind-space-place-come-within-me-be-inside-me-and-see-what-I-love… so freely. Don’t take it for granted.

Don’t wreck it.

Honour it.

You wouldn’t tell me—would you? —all those terrible things? (And if you would, baby—therapy. Now. Today; don’t wait for tomorrow.) You wouldn’t, of course you wouldn’t. Because you know you would violate me. With every word. And our relationship would be over, and my space-place-heart-mind closed to you forever.

Don’t do it to your children.

This soapbox moment brought to you by my own need for eternal vigilance over the tendency to treat our children worse than we would treat friends or strangers.




*If you’re new here, you might need to know… there was this flood: unLessons from the flood: we are amazing and After the flood: Running on empty, and why “are things back to normal” is not the right question. And now, 10.5 months later, I have my space back (well, almost, almost, any day now…), and am reimagining it. And it is quite, quite wonderful.

And when I get a cheap grey IKEA couch in there, and my frayed Mexican blanket, and a rug no-child-or-dog-has-peed-on-yet, and my most-beloved-books… it will be even better. And when I invite you into it, invite you in because I love you–you will look at it through MY eyes before you say anything. Because… you love me. And want to understand how I feel about this space-that-is-me, understand me–not hear yourself talk.

Of course you will.

Now. Go do the same thing when your child invites you in…

37 thoughts on “space-that-is-me-my-heart-mind-made-into-place

  1. I like to use that comparison too. One leftover party balloon = my purse. If they lose the beloved, magic balloon I take it seriously just like I would freak if I couldn’t find my purse. Shucks, your soapbox made me sad today.

  2. Yikes, wow, ugh. I read it and realized I don’t do that to my kids, I do it to my husband. All the time! Ugh. Well I guess knowing is half the battle cause then I can stop it.

  3. Ouch! Obviously I needed to hear that. Such indignation for you experiencing that and then – slap! I DO do that to my kids, much too often. I want to encourage them to those things that ‘I’ value. I’m going to go lick my wounds and nurse my guilt for a bit and then… and then… once more unto the breach, and hopefully I’ll do it a little better with a little more gratitude for their sense of wonder even when it doesn’t align with mine.

  4. Oh friend. This is the head shake of the year. This is absolutely brilliant. All moms need to read this. How often do we do this? If we taped ourselves and our interactions…gah…I would be ashamed to see it at times.
    Thank you for this. Love.
    Submit this piece somewhere. I’d say blogher but I’m not sure if you’re into that sort of thing. But this is worthy.

  5. Hook line and sinker…I was just about to pontificate about “no darling YOU are saying that to yourself” when I was (most cleverly I might add…) turned on my head…a place I tend not to like being because then my nether regions are waving in the breeze and vulnerable and there is so VERY much of them… in my case, the damage will have already been done. Back in the past when I wasn’t the person who I am today. The youngest of my children just turned 24 and the oldest is contemplating kids of his own (hopefully not painfully skewed by the above!)… But bridges can be made again…you can put out tentative feelers and sometimes the distance of adulthood can salve past wounds…the room to think, to understand, to process “your parents aren’t complete jerks, they are just people like you” that kind of thing. If they can’t get past that then you probably really fucked them over. Time to take the whole family and go for therapy…

  6. Damn. Brilliant. I mostly don’t do that to anybody, but admit that there are times when I dismiss the wonder of the long stick on the sidewalk because we’re late. It’d only take 30 seconds to bend down and exclaim over what a marvelous stick it is. Growing. Better. All the time better. Because of words. People. You.
    Adore you.

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