I noticed I was in a bad mood while walking my daughter to school today. Initially, I wasn’t sure why.
Her little hand was in mine, she was chattering away & enjoying the walk in our rain boots. Our dog on a leash beside us and unseasonably warm weather left us puddles to walk through and meant snow pants stayed at home – my daughter was in a great mood!
… and then I remembered, “you wouldn’t understand!”
The latest in a series of new, harshly spoken words from my pre-teen son. Ugh!
His morning went really well. He opened his eyes and reminded me he needed a shower, grabbed his clothes & got right to it without any hesitation. (I even heard whistling from upstairs as I was in the kitchen starting lunches, smoothies & our morning steel cut oats!)
He was talkative, excited about weekend plans, and even patient with his younger sister. It was a great morning.
Where did we go wrong?
… and then it hit me. My fault? Could it really be my fault? Had I elicited this frustration? Ugh!
If you can believe it, it was over socks!! (she says with much embarrassment) It was so mild this morning, he doesn’t have rain boots that fit right now – as his feet won’t stop growing – so we suggested an old pair of running shoes and an extra pair of socks, just in case. Agreed.
“Do you have the extra pair of socks?” “Are you sure?” “You can’t forget them, it’s so wet outside.” “Do you want me to go upstairs and get them for you?” – yup, all me!!
That last question, in an assault of over-protective, over-bearing & annoying ‘mom’ questions, as I was walking toward him led to an aggressive retort, “I’m not changing socks at school, you wouldn’t understand!”
… cue a gentle gasp from me, a request not to yell at me & a wounded mama. (the wounded part is where I really get myself into trouble) His tone & his words caught me off guard and I was instantly annoyed, and hurt. I tried again (relentless!) to encourage a ‘good choice’ and be sure he packed an extra pair of socks, “you wouldn’t understand!” he huffed once more.
“In one way or another, each of us will have to confront our ‘shadow parent,’ with its overwhelming desire to control.” Dr Shefali Tsabary, The Conscious Parent
I was trying to control.
I was trying to impose my ‘good choice’ on him.
It was his choice. (not a matter of life or death, just socks)
Will my son have wet feet at some point today, likely. Will he reflect on our interaction, likely. (I don’t think he felt great about his response, and I sure don’t feel great about mine!)
“I’m growing up mom, you don’t need to tuck me in.”
This gem, from earlier in the week also left me wounded & defensive. I scrambled to minimize his voice and secure my spot on his bedside, forever!!
As parents, it’s SO important to recognize our reactions, to pause & to own our emotions. Clearly, I am struggling with my son ‘growing up’ and my response is to personalize, feel sad and… control. If I can hold on a little longer, squeeze a little tighter or help him a little more… yeah, that’s not going to go well! (and I know this!)
“Often the very first step as parents is to recognize the significance of their own signals, which, in the heat of caring for their child, they ignore or even deny.” Dr Stuart Shanker
I know my son needs space.
I know my son needs trust, warmth, acceptance and a quiet listening ear.
I know my son needs to feel loved and not judged or minimized.
… and I need to know that my son loves me, that this transition is not about me, and that needs to come from within me. It is not my son’s responsibility, in any way, to support me through his ‘growing up.’
Despite my role as a Child & Family Therapist, a parenting coach and a specialist in working with children around emotional awareness and self-regulation – I messed up this morning, and I will do it again, no doubt!
As parents, when we lead with our hearts – as we should – we will experience our own barrage of emotions and reactions, often triggered by our children, as we walk with them through their ‘growing up.’ My work now, is to not get ‘stuck’ in my mess up from this morning, but rather to forgive myself and let it go. I need to recognize where it comes from, own it & accept it (love it in fact, because it comes from a love and connection with my son that is more precious to me than anything else in the world) and, I need to apologize to my son after school.
This is tough stuff. It can also be very freeing and rewarding to pause, to recognize your mess ups and to smile.
As I realized my mess up, walking to school hand in hand with my daughter, I smiled. I allowed myself to let it go, which brought me back to the moment when our boots were in the puddles, our dog was skipping through melting snow banks, and the realization that even though it’s not JUST about socks, this morning, it was just about socks.