This post is about keeping it real.
Lately, our house has been a bit chaotic. Words are exchanged, tempers flared, tones of voices used as weapons. And it’s not just the kids. When I’m anxious and overwhelmed I lash out too…. And then I immediately feel guilty for it. But it happens. We all get grumpy sometimes. My 7-year old has a new found attitude that I cannot even handle. (And sometimes I don’t. Now, when I’m feeling overwhelmed or like I am going to raise my voice, I try to be mindful. I peacefully say I don’t deserve to be talked to/ treated like that…and walk away.) Of course we return to it later to have a conversation. But, I’ve learned that trying to talk through it while in the midst of that energy doesn’t work. No one is actually listening, everyone is just trying to prove their point. Everyone is reacting. Self directed time outs can be a wonderful tool in regaining composure and recentering.
When anxiety is high and things aren’t going according to plan (trigger) we both kind of melt down, internally. I didn’t realize how much anxiety I actually had until about a year ago…when I was searching for how and why some days I couldn’t breathe – only stand still and hyperventilate. I’m learning to recognize my triggers and my whole family is grateful for the work I am doing…. Work that leaks into how I parent and becomes the ticker tape in the minds of my little ones. I am excited about the change in script (wow, how powerful to be able to change the script!) and in living with intention.
My 7-year old is beginning to argue like….a teenager. And it doesn’t jive with the let’s practice love, peace, and kindness with each other routine that I thought I was nurturing. The rude hurtful words–the one-upmanship—the tone of voice—the attitude—the melt downs when things don’t go a certain way, as expected, as planned—The fallout. In so many situations I have reminded myself to BREATHE…”she didn’t mean those hurtful words”….”this is only a phase”…”she is feeling hurt/left out/scared and that is where this tone is emerging from”… “What is the deeper energy that is driving her behavior?”
It’s been a challenge to walk in patient parenting.
The other day, on our way to co-op I said:
“You know…I’ve noticed that we haven’t been using the kindest words or tones of voices with each other lately. And I really want to work harder on that. Do you think you could help me with that?”
—big smile…any time they feel like they get to help remind me / teach me / have power over the situation … They are into it.
I liked that we were making it a team project – all for one – trying to work through kindness together. (We need more exercises in team-building and cooperation).
At first I thought if we could share a safe-word when someone was beginning to talk disrespectfully, hurtfully, begrudgingly…. Maybe that would make a big difference. But then it hit me… I realized I had been trying that and, actually, it seemed to make matters worse, not better.
You see…when we are already feeling maxed out, stressed, and using verbal venom..it seems that, when triggered with words, we feel the need to defend ourselves even more which comes out as confrontation. It only escalates the situation. So, as I was talking through ways we could help each other through grumpiness I came up with using a sign (hand signal) to remind the other person to find kindness.
And we focused on love.
Because that’s where this conversation began. In love. This work is not easy. Parenting is not easy. Self reflection and mindfulness is not easy. Watching myself grow and change … Owning my choices (even the ones I’m not thrilled to own) is not easy. Watching myself refind mothering has been a journey and a process….founded in love. So we settled on I LOVE YOU. A simple, one-handed sign…as a visual reminder to the other person to redirect focus on something else. Love. A reminder to breathe and think about what is being said and how words are being spoken…what kind of impact tone of voice gives. And to refocus on love.
It was kind of an aha moment for me. And we were excited to get started.
The first use was right after co-op, on our way home – disappointment about not stopping for ice cream turned into a “you never let us do anything special. ..” Rant.
I looked directly into the review mirror and made eye contact with my 7-year old. I held up my I LOVE YOU hand….and, almost as if by magic, her eyes softened. Her faced relaxed. She took a little breath. And, just like that her whole attitude changed.
I didn’t want to blog about it immediately because I really wanted to see how it played out. And sure, it hasn’t worked quite as magically every time …. But overall, it has worked. Something so simple. Today , my Mom was here visiting and we shared with her our Secret Code. She later confided in me that she used it once and it made a really big difference.
I’ve found it’s helped both of us remember kindness and love — and more than that, has put us back on the same team somehow.
Sometimes it’s hard to see your choices reflected back to you…. But I am beginning to allow myself the space to be inspired by those reflections as a way to better my self.
We all have grumpy days but we can recenter and refocus and move on….we get to choose love. It has been a great visual reminder for her … And for me. I Choose Love. <3