There are times when I look at one of my kids and think, we are moving together easily. Our relationship is flowing and smooth. It’s simple to connect and spending time with one another feels good.
Then there are times when I look at one of my kids and wonder who they are. I can’t understand their behavior and I seem unable to connect with them. I struggle to parent with patience and compassion.
I realize that often this happens because I don’t like what they are doing. I want them to choose for themselves, even when I disagree with those choices. But, that’s my calm, more rational brain that knows that. My panicked, emotional brain dislikes confronting choices that I couldn’t or didn’t make. It taps directly into my fear that I’m messing them up through what I am or am not doing.
These are, of course, my own issues and have little to do with them as their own people. So, I inwardly flail around for awhile in panic and try not to let this show to my kids. It’s embarrassing to admit to myself how often I have these inner wrestling matches. But, what I discovered was that my silent presence with them allows my child have time to focus or reset themselves while knowing I am with them unconditionally.
I am still there whether or not I am still, here.
The power of my silent presence with them helps to bring us closer more than any words I could say. I knew from my Yoga classes, not to be afraid of silence. But, it took a leap of faith for me to not want to fill in every silent, empty moment with my words or actions. My being there with them is enough. There’s value in trusting another person will find their way without me muddying up their vision with my own.
In the parenting classic, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen And Listen so Kids Will Talk, the authors explain how to compassionately listen to a child’s feelings. This unbiased listening creates a lasting connection between parent and child that can be leaned into when encountering times that a child makes choices that feel challenging. Many examples are shown, without explicitly stating, that the parent is getting out of their own head and out of the child’s way by remaining silent and responding in ways that encourage the child to continue thinking and communicating.
The techniques in the book, I find work well in interactions with people of all ages. And, surprisingly, they work well when finding connection with myself. Staying present, both physically and mentally, listening without reacting, and being unafraid of silence build the other person’s (or the inner person’s) trust in the relationship.
It’s knowing that they are accepted unconditionally that builds the bonds. It’s understanding that I put my ego’s need to share aside. It’s knowing that they matter to me more than the film reel spinning across my worry-mind.
So, when one of my kids has made a choice I don’t like, I stay present as my inner self panics. I let go of my expectations. I trust that I don’t have to fill in the spaces, but I can be there to provide support as they fill in the spaces themselves.
Post for NaBloPoMo
(Since I’m writing most of these late at night, in bed, while tandem nursing twins, I’m choosing to concentrate on writing rather than proof-reading or editing. Please forgive the extra typos and non-nonsensical grammar. Thank you.)