When I was out on my walk yesterday I saw a man with his child. It was the second after something happened that lead to the man grab his bag and storm away with the child running behind grabbing at the man’s out of reach hand. From a distance it looked like something happened that caused dad to withdraw his love. Because all I could see were images, a tall man, a tiny child, reaching and withdrawing it really hit home for me the power we have as parents to withdraw our love when our children are not responding in a way we would like them to. The child looked desperate to regain the love and the parent intent on keeping it locked inside the anger of what ever perpetuated the situation. It took my breath away, I felt for this child I’d never met but bigger then that it shed light on the moments where this same thing happens with my own children.
It’s the frustrating moments that challenge me the most. When I feel perhaps undervalued, personally attacked or as if something has been “done to me,” where I can slip into patterns from my own upbringing. Let’s take for example, the frustrated nearing teenager who is trying to learn a skill for the first time, while I hover in the background offering to support him. Only to be told to get out of the way (or something more colorful). My reaction in that moment can be to come back with a whole lot of hurt feelings that then turn the attention to me. Or I can lean in to love. I can meet my child eye to eye or eye to back of head which is more likely the reality, and connect and respond keeping the attention where it needs to be. On a growing human being who has hit a wall and trusts my love enough to lash out. Now is not the time to talk about how my feelings are hurt when … Now is the time to see my child, with love and hold that space.
I know for myself, the withdrawal of love gets a faster reaction from my child. They want my approval. It’s a powerful tool for shaping behaviors or shall I say more truthfully turning someone in to a people pleaser. I know from my own hard work at choosing a different way to be in relationship with my children that I don’t want them to be people pleasers. I don’t want them to go out in to the world looking for validation outside of themselves. Changing direction in their relationships in order to please others. I want them to make decisions from a solid foundation of love that will place them in mutually satisfying relationships. And that right now as they figure out what that looks like I am the safest place to make mistakes. Which let’s be truthful is a huge honor, to be someone’s safest place.
So what do I do to make sure I’m not slipping in to those places of patterned reaction? First off, there is self compassion for the mistakes that I do make. Having the level of awareness to notice when I am slipping off base, is a great indicator that I am doing things from a place of intention and not a reaction to circumstance. Secondly, is a phrase, I wish I knew who to attribute to, QTIP, quit taking it personally. It’s not all about me. Most of the time it is rarely ever about me. Holding on to this gem of information let’s things wash off of me and land on the floor where they can be brushed away. Finally, I walk away (after a quick touch or smile so my child knows I am not in need of anything from them) until I can get my reaction to a better place.
It’s the giving of unconditional love that I trust is building a foundation upon which my children will grow a strong sense of self. In order to go out into the world knowing who they are outside of others expectations.