After our beautiful, wonderful, magical, Pooh Sticks play time…… all Hell broke loose.
And I feel it’s important to share thebehind the scenes, hardcore, Messy Momming as much as the picturesque playtime.
I want to be fair. So I’m going to write the “behind the scenes” parenting that happened RIGHT after Pooh sticks.
10 minutes of fun and bliss.
Then Lillian had to poop. Immediately. Right now. Urgently. Sometimes she doesn’t realize she has to go until she has.to.go.right.now.
There was a bathroom *phew* so we hiked over.
It was locked.
She starts freaking out that she needs to go. (And we hadn’t eaten too much this morning so I packed a beautiful picnic snack pack for us to enjoy AT the park before heading back.) she was hangry. And she had to go.
The only choice was to turn around.
But Layla is hangry.
And Lincoln is hangry.
And we are riding back and Lincoln is also overtired, did I mention that? So he wanted to ride his bike right.next.to.me —— and only me.
But Lillian has to GO RIGHT NOW. So she kept trying to bike next to/in front of us. Lincoln freaked out every single time. And as Lillian tried to get around him, she fell over.
In a red ant hill.
Has to poop.
Red ants are biting.
They get in her shoe. And sock.
She’s freaking out.
Majorly freaking out.
Uncontrollably freaking out. I offer water in hopes of it being a distraction and allow her a different breathing pattern and hope she can breathe and return to emotional calm.
And that was a mistake. Because, the water bottle – was Lincoln’s. It doesn’t matter that I have two others, cold, unopened. To a four year old. Who is also tired and hangry. I took his only ration of water. I gave it to someone else.
So he started biking in the opposite direction to show his distaste for my decision to share with his shrieking, screaming sister.
So here Lillian is screaming. Poop. Hangry. Red ants. So loudly I was afraid neighbors were going to call the police – to try to figure out wtf was going on. She was inconsolable.
And by this time, Layla is FREAKING out because it’s the heat of the Florida sun and we are a bike ride from home and everyone is escalating and inconsolable and she can’t control it. Not any single part of it. And the more she tries to yell and scream and boss, the less control she has and the more she realizes she has no control. So she gets angrier. Louder. More bossy. She tries to regain power from a situation where she feels powerless.
I know this dance well because this used to be me. My role. Oh, crap, this kid needs me! Help! Help! Help THEM….. (not working but I’m trying my hardest) meanwhile now THIS OTHER kid needs me NOW. So I spiral and switch and try to put out this fire. But my attention is diverted and the energy of escalation is contagious and before you know it, the more I try to control any of it, the less control I find myself having of any of it. But I’ve had to learn this lesson many times before I’ve opted to change my response. And her reaction is still to try to control and micromanage it all.
Now……. I’ve tried for about 20 minutes to remain calm. To help. To put out fires, but with patience, grace, generosity of spirit, love…..
I feel myself starting to spiral. I’m starting to try to control this or tend to that…… and then I pause. And I breathe. Because I need to be the calm. I can easily join the storm. Easily. In fact, the energy almost insists I become part of it. Raging, demanding, bossing, controlling.
But that never works. Ever.
So I pause.
I breathe. I try to be the calm in the center of the storm while everyone around me escalates.
A strange thing happens. Layla gets louder, angrier, meaner. Her words have become her weapons – she screams out in frustration. She even uses the F-word to try to get my attention. I’m not reacting big enough for her. So she escalates even bigger: she tries to get a rouse out of me…. she’s pushing my buttons to test me.
I stay the course. I continue reading the ticker tape in my mind : what will others think? Do they think I’m hurting my kids? Will police be called? Omg. This is crazy. How did we go from Pooh sticks to this ridiculousness in such a short period of time? What kind of mother can’t “help” her kid when they are triggered? What kind of mother can’t “keep it together…keep things under control”. Who can see me? Are they judging me? Do I care? Am I doing the best I can? Oh, fuck? What kind of mom allows her ten year old to say that and let it fall of deaf ears? Shouldn’t I give her a talking to? Control her words and keep her from escalating?
My job. My role. Is me. Only.
I cannot Control him.
I can only control how I react or respond. I can only be the calm.
And when I didn’t feed into their spiraling and spewing ….. when I didn’t give them anymore fuel to add to their escalation fires (which I would then have to help put out) I remained calm. I watched my words and my judgments ticker in front of my mind’s eye. I selectively chose which stories I cared about and which ones were important TO me. And from that place of awareness I could respond instead of react.
The time within.
Makes all the difference.
And after I noticed her escalation and button pushing reach an extinction point. It got worse before it got better. But when I remained calm, eventually there was a turning point. My stillness. My ability to remain grounded was enough, eventually, to shift their spiraling energy to calm. I didn’t control them to get to calm.
I allowed space for calm.
I made breathing room.
I allowed each human to experience whatever they needed to experience in the time; in the moment; and I just was……. and tried not to be pulled into the chaos.
After the escalation, there was an extinction point. And a hush. And Lillian was riding her bike: with only one sock and one shoe…..but no longer crying and sobbing and screaming uncontrollably. And Layla stopped spewing at me for not “doing more”. And Lincoln decided he didn’t want me to push his bike, he wanted to join me in riding to get us where we needed to go.
Eventually we had gone three bike steps back before we could ride together forward, but we got there.
We cannot Control what someone else feels. We cannot Control another’s big feelings. We can only offer to sit and allow for the big feelings to be felt. When we try to control it, things escalate, and we fuel each other’s intensity. When we sit, grounded, knowing …. this too shall pass ….. eventually the extinction point is met. Resistance recedes. And repair can be chanced.
When our brain
s go into fight, flight, freeze mode ….. it needs at least twenty minutes after an escalation or event for your prefrontal cortex (or wise leader) to get back into connection and start calling the shots again. So, any attempt to control, talk through, or change the outcome of the situation through commentary or “a taking to” during that trigger / event ISN’T GOING TO WORK anyway. It just won’t. And then I’m left spending my limited patience and grounded resources on a moot point of connection.
Sit with her through the escalation (or walk away if you need to because sometimes I just can’t listen to it any more) ———- after the big feelings cease ———— 20+ minutes later… THEN offer repair work. Conversation. Communication. Commentary. Healing.
We learn just as much from the trying times as we do from the fun playful moments if we are open enough to listen and look for the lesson.