I try to wait and be patient, to let my kids (Lilly and Sam) process whatever is causing their emotional yell, hit, tears, mean words, door slam, or silent treatment. But too often, I pounce. I barge in, invited or not, with a full-on reaction because I know just how to fix it. When, inevitably, I make things worse, and we all yell higher, cry harder, and slam more doors, I am left to contend with my own emotions: blame, frustration, defeat…and did I mention blame?
My pouncing doesn’t just kick-in during these emotionally charged situations. When Lilly (10 years old) talks to me about difficult friend situations, I jump ahead to the ending before she can even process the beginning. I want her to believe that her negative reaction to a friend is unfounded, not helpful and will ultimately lead to Lilly being left out. That is the crux of my issue: I don’t want Lilly to feel more hurt.
Intellectually, I know that my own reaction stems from my own childhood trauma. I want to do everything in my power to protect my kids from any kind of hurt because I cannot bear them feeling even an ounce of the hurt that I knew as a kid. My reactions are therefore self-oriented, and they often lead to emotionally charged interactions between Lilly and me.
I was reminded recently that Lilly comes to me because she feels safe. She feels safe to process her emotions—uninhibited, unfiltered, raw and vulnerable. She needs this space, a safe zone, to ‘let it out’ without worry of recourse or judgment or embarrassment. Unlike me at her age, she doesn’t have to protect herself through silence. I am so proud that I can give that kind of space to her, even if my approach is often flawed.
Children are amazing. They are so forgiving of our follies as parents. But I sometimes worry that my reactions will silence Lilly. So, I’m shifting my mindset. Instead of getting furiously protective and charging a situation with intense emotion, I’m working on slowing down and listening to Lilly. That is the beauty of choice. We can choose to reset, to shift the tide, alter the course—to change at any time.
Today, I choose the mantra “Be Curious Not Furious” as I sit with Lilly, giving her space and safety to process and to be honest and raw and brave.
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