Today we’d like to share with you a story from the blog of Bo, a dad who with his wife Jen took our online course and shared with us this beautiful story of their journey to become safer parents. We hope you are as blessed by it as we were!
A safe place. What do you think of when I use that phrase?
The picture I think of is changing. Let me explain.
Our youngest, Isley, is finally asleep in the bed. Eilam, Kale and Fallon are at the grandparents’ house for a sleepover. It is 10:30 at night and Jen and I sit on the bedroom floor, open the computer, and prepare to listen to our second class in a course titled “Discipline that Connects.” Tonight’s topic – “You are safe with me.” Little did I know I was fixin’ to learn a valuable and practical lesson in that very topic.
Jen and I had purposely planned on the older 3 kids staying at the grandparents’ house. This way we could chat about a few items (work & home stuff) we have been needing to talk about before beginning the course content. As we sat down to watch the course, the doorbell rings. We both look at each other and say, “It’s Fallon.” She loves the idea of spending the night with grandmommy — but in reality, she usually ends up back at our house. This night, since it was already 10:30, we had thought she was going to make it. Jen got up I followed her to the door about the time granddaddy handed Fallon to Jen. And what do I see?
I see granddaddy smiling – like it is no big deal that he had to bring her home. I see Jen smiling and I see Fallon smiling as she hugs her mom.
Now, enter dad. Fallon saw me and what once was a smile turned into a scared “I did something wrong” look. Her smile faded and she hid her head. I could tell from her reaction that my expression was something that spoke this: “What are you doing home? Did you not know I wanted time with your mom? Did you not know you are interrupting our time to learn about parenting?”
I literally said, “Fallon, what are you doing home?” and before I could speak any more words, Jen (this is one of the reasons I love her) interrupts me – looks directly at me – and says, “Fallon, we are glad you are home.” I repeated the words with some other added words I do not remember right now, hoping to make it all better.
Jen took Fallon to the bedroom and snuggled with her for a moment while I got us ready again to watch the parenting course. With Fallon whimpering slightly in the bed, I opened up the computer and these words leapt off the screen at me, “You are safe with me.” I turned and looked at Jen. “How safe does Fallon feel with me right now?” Jen smiled and said very little but her expression spoke much more.
I understood fully what I needed to do. I closed the computer – climbed on the bed – scooped my precious little girl in my arms and gave her a hug and took the time to speak to her heart. In the best way I could, I explained my expression and the way I felt but I also reminded her of this truth: She is always welcome home.
She gave me a hug and a kiss, said “I love you daddy,” and rolled over to go to sleep. I sat back on the floor with my wife. She gave me a kiss and said, “Good job, dad!” And with that – I learned about being a safe place.
The course was great. It was even greater because of the practical application that happened prior to us watching and learning. Truly, this course (along with some other books we are reading) is allowing Jen and I to open our hearts to each other in deeper – more vulnerable – communicative ways. It is exhilarating and challenging all at the same time and so worth it!
As Jen and I continue to talk about this topic (and many others), the idea of being “a safe place” goes well beyond parenting. It speaks into marriage and every other relationship. I need a safe place to be me. I need a safe place to express my emotions/feelings. A safe place lets my feelings be validated yet at the same time a safe place is able to speak truth into the situation. A safe place is a place I can be heard. In being heard, I can be understood (not necessarily agreed with). In being understood, I feel valued. In being valued, I am known. Heard – understood – valued – known: that is a safe place.
And lastly, I think of how this applies to my relationship with God. Do I consider God a safe place? Can I come to God with arms open realizing like the psalmist, “God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. And even though I stand at the edge of the cliff, I will not fear…” (Ps. 46:1-3)? Many times, sadly, I do not and based on past experiences (not necessarily with God himself), I think God walks into the foyer (like I did with Fallon) and has the same facial expression I had that speaks, “What are you doing here? Why are you interrupting me?” That is not how He responds nor is it His heart. He hears us (Ps. 116:11, 1 John 5:14) – He understands us (Ps. 139) – He values us (Matt. 10:29-31, Is. 43:4, Jn. 3:16-18) – He knows us (Is. 43:1-2, Jer. 1:5). God is our safe place and based on that reality, I want to be a safe place, too.
About the Author
Dr. Bo and Jennifer Bryson have been married for 17 years and are parents to four wonderful children: Eilam (8), Kale (5), Fallon (3), and Isley (11 months). They live in Lincoln, Nebraska. You can read more of Dr. Bo’s thoughts about life on his blog.
Want to learn more about these concepts? Download our one hour recording of a Discipline That Connects workshop.