(As shared on Decoding Your Child Facebook Post on 2 Feb 2019)
It’s personal only if we decide to make it personal.
It has been a rather crazy week this week. I had had a super full load of work to get done, plus a talk to prepare for. Unfortunately, my little 6-year-old came down with the flu on Sunday. She had been a real trooper, resting, sleeping and leaving me practically very much alone for a few days to do my work because she knew I was busy.
But by Wednesday, her love tank was empty. She wouldn’t let me go. She was only content when she was in my arms. When I attempted to reach for my phone or laptop to do some work while craddling her, she would grab hold of my wandering hand and place it firmly against her face.
And so I savoured the moments and focused my 100% attention on her until she fell in a deep sleep and I was able to snap this photo.
Soon after, she stirred and pulled my hand back to her and we stayed in that position for a few hours.
By Friday, she was well enough to go to school. She had been looking forward to seeing her classmates and teachers and it was a happy occasion as we headed towards school.
My husband had started the “tradition” of bringing iced water for her when picking her up from school because it’s hot in the afternoons. But on Friday, I did not bring any iced water when I went to pick her up as she was still having a cough.
When she realised there was no cold water, she stomped the whole way back. And when she reached home, she threw herself on the sofa and cried as if the world had let her down. She practically had a meltdown.
I had 3 options.
One was to be angry and upset that she was ungrateful, that I too had walked in the hot sun to go pick her up AND bring her home. (Guess how I knew of this option?)
Two was to ignore her and leave her alone (give her a time out).
Three was to show her love and compassion.
Truth be told, I felt anger bubbling. I felt she was ungrateful. I feared she was becoming self-entitled. And boy was I tempted to leave her and go get a glass of cold water for myself!
But in the end, I took my 2 deep breaths and I chose love and compassion.
I bent over her and asked if she wanted me to cuddle her. She put her arms around my neck, all the while still crying. I took that as a “yes” and I craddled her.
After a while, she started kicking and writhing in frustration. So I asked if she would like me to put her down. She hugged me tighter and I took that as a “no”. So I just held her while she kicked and writhed and cried. After 25 minutes, she finally calmed down. I told her a joke, she laughed and that was the end of it.
She had let all her “angries” and stress out. I didn’t take any of it personally. We both emerged fr the “ordeal” happy and deeply connected.
After we had lunch, I explained why I couldn’t give her cold water and I got a hug in return. I asked her if she knew why I didn’t bring iced water when I went to pick her up and she said she knew.
You see, I knew she had understood. But I also knew she did not have the ability or muscle to not feel or act disappointed. Plus she had just recovered from flu and must have been exhausted being in school after a long MC. She had no reserves left for any self-control. Had I chosen to get angry at her, it would have been akin to getting angry at an 8-month-old baby for not walking.
She throwing a tantrum was not an attack on me. She just couldn’t control her emotions. I do not need to take it personally, and I’m glad I stopped myself, re-wired my brain and refused to go any further down the rabbit hole of anger.
I’m not a saint who doesn’t get angry. I’m just a regular human with normal instinctive emotions. I get angry a whole lot bcos of my imprint as a child that scoring 97 or 99 out of 100 is a punishable offence. I have tremendous fear of being not-good-enough. I fear being a lousy parent. And so, yes, I correspondingly have a lot of anger.
I mean, if I were a good parent, my kids should all be behaving well, doing well, listening well, controlling themselves well. So if they act out, it must mean I have failed. My first instinct is, “oh dear, I have failed. How can I help other parents if my children are still giving me problems?”
And if you have read Part 2 of my Dealing with Anger series, you know that it will very quickly be translated by the mind into, “How dare you not do what I have taught you so many times?” which if left alone will become an explosion of anger.
But as mentioned in Part 3, I have learned to take my precious 2 breaths. And those 2 breaths have on many, many occasions given me space and time to re-wire my brain to move away from anger, face my fear and tell it to go away because I AM AN AWESOME PARENT. It’s a conscious decision every day, to re-wire my brain. Sometimes I fail, but over the years, I have had more successes than failures. My brain synapse to anger is weakening.
May you also find courage to face your tiger, face your fear and tell it to go home.