*This is a re-post form my previous blog. The emotions of children have been on my mind lately and something I plan to address more in following posts”
One of my favorite segments I found about improving a relationship with your kids:
”There is nothing wrong with wanting to be your child’s friend. Do what it takes to earn their friendship – be supportive and kind and honest and trustworthy and caring and generous and loyal and fun and interesting and interested in them …and all the other things that good friends are to each other. Be the best 40 year old friend you can be (or whatever age you are). People use “I’m the parent, not a friend,” as an excuse to be mean, selfish, and lazy. Instead, be the adult in the friendship. Be mature.You’ve BEEN a five-year-old and your child has not been a forty-year-old, so you have an advantage in terms of long-term and wider perspective. Use that advantage to be an even better friend. You know how to be kinder and less self-centered and you know how beneficial it is to put forth the effort.”
“ALL THE THINGS THAT GOOD FRIENDS ARE TO EACH OTHER” That is profound. Whenever I catch myself feeling the need to say something catty to my kids I try to remember that we parents have the opportunity to be our kids’ first really great friend. A friend who trusts, respects, and is honest yet compassionate.
ZoraJane experienced her first truly great loss. She was emotionally attached to a blue balloon. She took it outside and away it went. To me it was just a balloon: unworthy of my love and easily replaceable. At first I wanted to shrug my shoulders and blow it off-tell her that that’s what happens when you don’t hold onto your balloon. But I am 30 something. She is two and a half and her pain was very real and very deep. I reminded myself how I want to be treated by a loved one when I am grief stricken. I held her as she sobbed, listened to her and validated her sadness, “I know, your balloon went bye bye, and it makes you sad.”. And only when she was done crying would I tell her she could play with her sisters balloon, or that we could buy more balloons and this time keep the weight on it, or direct her to other toys. Throughout the evening, between her times of calmness and play she’d remember the agony of losing her balloon. She’d break down in tears. I let her go through the mourning process with compassion. Sure I was getting tired, I wanted her to realize that the balloon wasn’t coming back and there was nothing anyone could do about it. I wanted her to be over it. Yet I also felt her sadness too. I listened to her heart instead of my nagging inner voice. I let her feel.
Some parents want to distract their kids to stop the crying. That seems a little more compassionate then my response. But its still stopping them from letting the pain dissolve. I don’t want my kids to learn that their pain should be stopped with shiny new things or a dulling high. I don’t want to fix all their problems. In fact, I want them to learn to come up with their own solutions. Though, as with any good friendship I want to provide them with possible solutions that they can choose for themselves whether or not to implement. I want to help them see other perspectives yet follow their own inner guide to do what they feel is right. And I certainly don’t want to shut them up because its inconvenient to me or I’m sick of hearing their wails.
Or a parent may want them to be tough, take it like a man, or to cowboy-up…this is more along the lines of my initial reaction to my child’s hurts. Those parents are going to have to live with a kid who buries the negative feelings. Feelings that will probably resurface in another form sooner or later. Or they have to deal with their kids not trusting them when they get into a tough situation. I can’t stand the thought of my kids feeling like they have to suffer alone. Or worse that they shouldn’t experience pain at all. Pain is part of the human experience but its also a spiritual one as well. It helps us relate to and feel compassion for fellow humans, it makes us appreciate the good times, and it often opens our eyes and leads to new paths and new friendships. Being able to cry releases the pain and helps us move on and a parent who lets their kid cry will build trust.
And why is it that my first response is one of meanness? What happened in my own development? Where along the line did I loose my freedom to express my emotions without shame? I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t give me mean reactions to my suffering? I’m not sure I need to know but I am pretty sure I need to shut that nagging voice the hell up so that I can react in a way that allows my kids to trust me and trust themselves.
I can see how my relationship with my oldest is changing too. I’ve always been open arms when she is sad. And as a child she’s had her physical and emotional hurts. But only recently have I let her experience anger, frustration, and angst without shaming her or telling her to get over it-Or just as bad, trying to impart some great wisdom that took me years to learn-like “only you can choose to stay in that negative place” or “why don’t you think of some positives about that situation”. Instead I’ve been practicing validating her as well. As a little kid the adults in her life would often control or manipulate her to get a behavior out of her that was more to their liking-myself included. She hasn’t had the same freedoms to express herself that I’ve learned to give the babies from an earlier age. Adeline has spent many of her kid years being reprimanded and being shamed into being nice and respectful. Or made to feel inadequate in her ability to learn things on her own. Or stupid for not learning the things at the same time and in the same manner as schooled kids. Basically she’s spent a lot of time feeling like she’s not had any control or freedom.
I’ve been learning to let her find her power. And she’s getting it back. This doesn’t mean she’s always nice or in a good mood. It means she feels like she has the freedom to truly feel what she is truly feeling and to express it without being made to feel bad. Instead of telling her to be nice I tell her kindly if she hurts my feelings and I practice being nice to her and other people. I am encouraging her to make more decisions but talk to her about what I need from her as a member of this family. I’m being more active in helping her find the answers to her questions. I’m just listening when she needs to vent about something-sometimes I offer suggestions for possible solutions, but only when she is in the mood to converse rather than just too vent. And I’m trying to provide her more opportunities to explore her interests-without judgment or expectations. And I’m trying to learn from her too- to actually listen , ask questions, and understand when she tells me about her interests. I’m modeling a desire to learn instead of telling her she needs to learn. And I am learning: About her, about myself, and about all sorts of things I wouldn’t otherwise be interested in.
I want to provide my kids an environment where they can express themselves. Where they can let the feelings move freely through them instead of getting stuck only to resurface later-possible in another form like anger or bitterness that their mother was not compassionate. And I want to provide a home where my kids respect others. This starts with me giving them respect and actively giving others respect. I know its possible and I know it starts with me.