Smashing pumpkins can help anger pass

One of the most challenging parts of being a mom for me has been the big emotions. The anger, the frustration and the heartbreak. I think in the beginning I wanted to really wish it all away. To jump right in and make it stop or pass or heal. If I am truthful that was more for me then it was for them. As a parent I do believe I wear my heart on the outside of my body. And when I see my children in pain it’s like daggers piercing through an open wound. I want it to stop. I want peace to return. Which is a lot of I statements when I am referring to someone else’s emotional process.

As a child myself I learned early on that emotions were something to be tucked away, squashed or displayed behind closed doors and on your own. I wanted more then that for my children, or so I thought I did before I met them. I wanted a freedom of expression. I wanted them to emote openly. In my mind I will admit that looked a lot more like dancing and singing then it did hitting, throwing things and cursing.

It was my first born son who showed me just how messy life is. In more then just one way. He had his first night terror when he was six months old. He screamed out of control, unconsolable, rigid, starring at me but not seeing me at all. My heart split in to a million tiny pieces. I was distraught. I wanted to take it all away. He settled and went back to sleep eventually and woke bright eyed the next day while I was bleary eyed from a sleepless night. My mind was determined to find a cause for this and to set up parameters that would ensure he never went through that again.

But life is messy. It is full of the sorts of things that anger, frustrate and devastate. Especially, when you are a little person in a big world. When you don’t have the skills you need in a moment, when you are stretching ever higher to reach for your desire and even more so when you are living a life that is full of passion. There was no way for my to bandage up the whole world to make sure he was forever in a happy state. And truly the more time I spend on this planet the more I realize you can’t just have the good feelings. You can have it all or you can be numb to it all, there is no one other way.

What I could do however was support and hold space. I could gather the sorts of skills and awareness that allowed me to be with my children through the emotion. I am pretty sure the biggest struggle for me came in not owning their feelings. Letting them have them. There is a slippery slope between empathy and pity. The word empathy in my world is seeing someone in their own heart and holding space side by side. Pity comes in to play when I see the person as a victim of their circumstance.  Here’s an example for the sake of clarity.

Empathy : “It sucks that you can’t go for a bike ride right now.”

Pity : “Oh you poor thing. I feel so sorry for you. It hurts me to see you like this.”

Now these may not be dictionary perfect examples but they are my reference points. When I slip in to the place of seeing my child as a victim of their emotions or share how their emotions are impacting me, I silently steal something from them. When I share how their emotions are landing on me, I take away their unique experience. I shift the focus from them on to me. And when I see them as plagued by the emotion I take away the power they have to make their way through to the other side.

How I can hold space alongside my child as they mange through big feelings, looks different depending on the situation but there are some fundamental pieces guide me through. Say less listen more. First off, when my child is in the place of anger, frustration and the like chances are they can’t hear me anyway. No matter how loud I provide my suggestions. Secondly, if my voice is talking so much I can’t truly hear what is being said by them. My role at that point is to be still and listen. To hear both what is being said and what is being felt.

Respect! This is huge and often challenging for me personally. For as my children age they become clearer on what they want in the moment. And it is often far away from what I want to do for them. “Leave me alone. Go away.” When my child is sobbing in total devastation I want to hold him. Soothe him. But he is saying loudly, behind a locked door often, “go away and leave me alone.” As hard as it is and as much as I want to I can not unlock the door and go to him. He is setting a super clear boundary and I need to respect it. He is saying, “I have a process let me go through it.”  If I choose not to respect his boundary I damage our relationship. And I send an dangerous message that says “I don’t trust you know how to take care of yourself.” So again, I hold space alongside him by giving him just what he is asking for.

There is then what I think of as follow up. It happens differently with each child and each situation but it is always a piece of the puzzle. A time when things are calmer, the storm perhaps has passed and their is room for conversation. Again, I remember to talk less and listen more (I will always struggle with this). But it is a time where I can offer a short story of a time when I felt similarly or a suggestion of things that might help out. This is the time where there is potential to discuss next time or trouble shoot strategies.

The final piece I will admit has taken me the longest to gift myself with. The self care required afterwards. Being with someone who I love and adore as they process hurt or anger or deep frustration is super exhausting.  It triggers things in me and my heart space is pushed to it’s outer limits. The mental energy to bite my tongue or shut myself up is similar to writing a focussed math exam. So afterwards, when peace is restored, I need to find time to nurture my own self. Whether it be sitting quietly with a glass of wine, journaling out the things I wanted to say, calling a friend, long walk, run or hoop dancing, I need to make sure that happens to bring myself back to a grounded place. Cause I know without doubt this messy life is just waiting to toss another twist in to the mix and if I am not taking care of myself no of the above will be able to happen for any of us.