On my quest to become a better, more patient, connected, and loving parent, I’ve come across many wonderful resources. I can’t remember which one it was that recently brought to my attention the importance of being silent. More specifically, being silent when the kids are hurt or having a hard time. Just being there for them. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t already doing that. I truly didn’t know how badly I needed to have that brought to my attention. So, I’ve spent the last couple weeks focusing on being silent. Just keeping my opinions and “guidance” to myself. IT WAS SO HARD! I mean, damn near impossible sometimes! It made me realize that I can be really annoying! **insert eye roll from close family friends who already know this**
Basically, the idea is that if my child is hurt, either physically or emotionally, just allowing them to come to me for comfort without me judging what got them there and/or telling them how they can avoid it next time. Here are a few examples of what that looked like this past week:
Medina (5 years old) likes to sit at the edge of her chair while she eats. She just fell off the chair for the THIRD time in a week and hurt her elbow/knee/hand. She came running to me screaming and crying.
What I wanted to say (and usually would): “Shhhh, it’s ok. You’re ok. My love, if you would just sit in the center of your chair this wouldn’t happen. How many times have I asked you to sit nicely? Do you see what happens when you don’t sit nicely?”
What I actually said: Nothing. I hugged her, kissed her where it hurts, and let her walk away when she was done being comforted by me.
Let me tell you, it was hardest as she was walking away. She was walking back to her chair and, in my mind, she was just going to sit her little butt right back at the edge of that chair and eventually fall off again. I lost it a little in my mind. She was walking away and I was holding back a ridiculous number of thoughts that wanted to spew out like incoherent babble at that point just to get out of my brain. But I didn’t allow it. I took a deep breath and went back to what I was doing without addressing it as a problem that needed to be fixed.
Medina and Amaya (3 year old) were playing in the basement. Medina wanted a snack and came upstairs. Amaya didn’t realize Medina left and got scared. Mind you, this happens almost everyday. Amaya ran upstairs crying uncontrollably because she was scared of the noises coming from the water heater closet.
What I wanted to say: “There’s nothing to be scared of, my love. We’ve talked about this before and It was just the noises coming from the water heater.” (in a frustrated and exhausted tone of voice, of course!)
What I said: “I’m sorry you were scared.” Then I hugged her until she let go.
Medina was running with a snow globe we got on our trip to Turkey. She slipped, fell, and it shattered on the bathroom floor. She started crying and saying “BUT I LOVE THAT SNOW GLOBE!!”
What I wanted to say: “Well WHY were you running with something made of glass? You know better than that! I’ve told you before to play nicely with it because it can break easily. Well, that’s what happens when you’re not careful with your things.”
What I said: “I’m sorry your favorite snow globe is broken.” I hugged her until she let go. Then I asked her if she would help me clean it up by getting the things I needed to clean it so I could keep Lana (1 year old) away from the broken glass. She did.
So, here is what I’ve learned so far: All I was doing, by addressing the situation right away, was kicking them while they were down. It didn’t help anything. It didn’t teach them anything because they’re not really listening while they’re so upset and it made them feel worse than they already did. I’m ashamed to admit that “correcting” them was probably just a stress reliever for me. The fact that it was sometimes ridiculously hard to keep my “corrections” to myself proved to me that I was just looking for a release. As a matter of fact, there was one time I just couldn’t control it and that’s when it really hit me. I wish I wrote down the scenario that led up to it because I can’t remember it at the moment, but the result hit me hard.
Medina was upset about something and, as I was hugging her, I went through a whole mess of thoughts and told myself I wasn’t going to say anything but even as I was thinking not to, my mouth opened and the I told you so came out. That’s when I noticed it….as soon as the words came out of my mouth, she clenched her body, and her cry got a little louder. She already knew. She didn’t need me to tell her. She needed me to hold her. I wasn’t even doing it right but she still wanted to be there with me. ONLY me. That’s the sadness of it all for me. For most of the day, they only have me to run to. I AM their comfort. So when they come to me for comfort I just turn around and make them feel worse?
Most of all, I thought about all the stupid things I do in a day and how I would feel if I had someone watching me all the time telling me that I knew better and what I could do differently next time. I thought about if that person was my husband. The first person I run to for comfort. I thought about how damaging that would be for our relationship. How unloved I would feel. Why would my children feel any different?
It’s hard, sometimes, to think of such little people as human beings with complex thoughts and feelings. It really is so simple, though, at the same time. They are me. How I like to feel, they like to feel. They only want to be loved and respected they just don’t know how to express to me what they need from me in our relationship. Deep down I already know. It’s just a matter of controlling my need to control them and make loving them and respecting them a priority.
I’m a work in progress but I am intent on progressing.