It is not even 8:30 in the morning when she has stormed upstairs and I have slammed a door and bellowed that our fun plans for the day are cancelled. I sit in the bathroom where I am hiding from her, fuming. I am too mad to pray. I’m too mad to write. I’m too mad to think in any kind of a reasonable straight line.
She is eight years old, and usually the kindest most helpful child. This morning she is attempting a sewing project without help or guidance. It involves a pattern and tracing paper and again, she is only eight years old. I didn’t mind helping her, but my kind of help is adulting. I want to teach and demonstrate The Right Way To Do It. I know she is frustrated with her littleness. I know like every crafter on the planet her vision is perfection and her reality is whatever she able to do right now in this space with her own little learning hands.
I still lost my cool. I got angry and yelled at her when she yelled at me. Instead of absorbing her feelings for her and loving her though them, I retaliated with my feelings. I am a grown ass woman, fighting with a precious innocent eight year old. I am then also mad at myself. Why on earth would I be such a reactive jerk to this person I adore? Why at my age and wisdom do I sink to the ground to an eight year old’s emotional level and just react? I settled down and was able to pray and then I got it: No one else in my life treats me like this, and if they did they would not be in my life.
I am not about to break up with my beloved daughter, but it was a helpful realization that our children treat us worse than anyone else we allow in our lives. We are supposed to be a safe place for them to lose it…yet most of us fail to stay zen when a person, however small, is spewing vitriol in our direction. We are hurt! We are offended! We want to stop the flow of negative emotions quickly. But…we are parents, too. Do any of you have tips to help the rest of us not melt down when they do?
My husband and I have a mantra we use at times like this: “They are new here.” Reminding ourselves the kids are new here to the planet, to the world, helps us remember they do not know what we know. The things that are obvious to us are not obvious to them and we need to allow them room to discover some truths on their own. My expectations are high and I do not apologize for that. I can still teach to their level and remain a reasonable adult at the same time. Right?
Our kids are independent and mostly awesome. They help with chores big and small, dress themselves, run the neighborhood unsupervised and have learned to clean up their own messes literally and figuratively. As I wrote this, Libby came to me with tear stained cheeks and apologized for yelling at me. She then asked me how she could make it up to me. She is eight years old but knows how to clean up the inevitable mess of relationships better than many adults. I told her I was sorry too, and that I was writing about our struggle. I said that if she would let me share it with you guys, it would help me a lot. She agreed. We cuddled and talked about what went wrong with her doll sewing pattern and I offered a trip to the craft store for better tools.
It may help you to know that remembering a person is “New Here” may work in most any situation. Each of us are new here; new to this day, that job, this difficult negotiation of feelings. Perhaps remember we ourselves are ‘new here’…new to this very moment. We all carry our experience of the world with us into every new interaction. Each hour of our days is different from the last. I give you these two little words to remember to care gently for yourself, your children, friends, family and strangers….we are all new here, after all.
Music: "New Day" by Mona Wonderlick