Learning to Respond Instead of React.
I have been alone with my children for over a week now. I love them. Ohhh, how I love them … But being the sole parent for any expansion of time is difficult. Really difficult. It requires a momentum of patience and love and nurturing and patience that I seem unable to muster after many sleepless nights and tantrums and whining.
Oh the whining.
Nothing gets to me more than whining.
I am learning that whining is just another form of communication. Like body language for a child’s soul. Immature and longing – unable to communicate – it uses this high frequency tone with great urgency and distress to be noticed in a way it wasn’t before. The Spirit needs attention. And fast.
I’m recognizing this. I’m realizing this more and more to be true and now, when I hear those shrill sounds I am trying to be mindful of the deeper, below-the-surface need so I can embrace the whine-monster and perhaps show it a little more empathy. And patience.
But it’s hard.
It’s so much easier to react.
The other day I was cleaning, trying to answer some work emails, trying to make lunch, and push the boundary limits of nap time … when low and behold such meltdown whining came upon our household by my four-year- old. I know she was hungry. Though she refused to acknowledge her hunger. So I scrambled to make lunch – with protein – to quell her whine-monster while she refused to do anything other than sit right under me, whining, complaining, tantruming.
I tried to patiently distract. I tried to engage her in helping me make lunch more quickly. I tried to give her a spoonful of peanut butter. I tried to offer a hug. I tried to sing a song to lighten the mood. I tried narrating what I was doing so I could tune out the gawdawful shriekness of that whiny tone that crawls under my skin and scrapes the last bit of remaining patience I have. I tried. And I tried.
And then I felt it.
My anger starting to rise up.
And I could feel my tone of voice beginning to get snippy.
(This is where I would typically escalate and get louder. Tell her to please for the love of God quiet down. Stop whining. Go away. I may even pick her up and move her to a different location. Only to have her whine / tantrum louder because… Guess what? Her needs were still unmet. And now she was being ostracized and abandoned when she was feeling the most disconnected.)
But this time. This time. This time…I felt it begin within me. I felt myself bubbling over. Beginning to lose control. Beginning to get angry and upset. This time I noticed my heart rate. And my tone of voice. This time I stopped. Mid-busy-ness. Mid-sandwich-making. Mid-narration. I took several steps away because I needed space. Because I needed a breath.
And I sat on the floor.
And I put my hands, palms up, on my criss-crossed knees.
And I closed my eyes.
And I began to breathe.
In through my nose.
Out through my mouth.
And you know what? I could feel my insides become less boil-y.
And you know what? My internal world became just a little quieter.
And you know what else? My external world became quieter.
Yes. My external world became quieter. (Thank God.)
And my 4-year-old whine-monster came over to my meditative self…curled up in my lap and became my 4-year-old cuddle-monster.
She needed to be seen. She needed to be heard. She needed to see me engage. Lovingly. And she needed a hug.
When, just minutes sooner she really had no idea what she needed. Her Soul knew she needed something and so, her whine-monster came out. She wasn’t able to articulate what it was she was feeling / sensing / needing. But her whine-monster knew she needed something.
At that time, minutes earlier…I had no idea what she was feeling / sensing / needing either. But I did know how her whine-language affected me. And the only way I could make it through the whine-storm was taking time out for myself and apply my own oxygen mask.
When she saw me doing that….without reacting… It triggered her oxygen to flow more easily. And the dust of her whine-storm settled long enough to breathe. And to pause. And to sit. And to touch. And to breathe. And to settle.
We both sat and took Time Within.
To Recenter. And refocus.
And then, we had lunch.