My life is a hurricane, most days. My children show me this. They do it the only way children can. Act up. Chaos finds me on these days. You know the sound of chaos. It crashes loudly on the shore of your soul. It creeps up to the fringes, and like any tide it rushes in around your feet and surrounds you completely. It has the same suffocating effects of water and it penetrates the smallest of gaps.
These are the days that I spread myself too thinly. I blame the house work, social and business media, my mother’s expectations, the fact that I like to make my husband think I am coping beyond his expectations – and my own. Often my children are adrift in that tide, screaming back to me on the shore.
As parents, we have many choices on how we interact with our children. It is a fragile divide between a Reaction and a Response. I know that when I react to my children it is a fast unthinking barrage of my own emotions. I can be irritated, frustrated, busy, blind and un-engaged. And so become my reactions. The side effects to this un-thinking behavior are dire. My children mirror me; they become skittish, frustrated with each other and messy. I have learnt to read this, but it has taken me some time; many failings, fall outs, and sad moments of reflection.
When I feel the tight grasp of emotional chaos closing its claws in around my home, I stop. It is one of my parenting alarm bells. Breathe. What is happening? Why? Can I change this?
Because let’s face it – children are not wired to be rational. It is not in their job description. It is one of the clauses I signed when I gave birth. It was along the dotted lines of I will guide you. Encourage and nurture your needs.
I did not give birth to keep a clean house and up the ante on my personal expectations of perfection. I gave birth to experience motherhood in a deeply engaging and holistic way. I birthed my children to learn and grow with them; to teach and nourish them. I make a choice to step aside of the busy wagon of Life and revel in the divinity of parenthood. Because parenting is exactly that -Divine.
I feel divine love for my children when I am engaged with them; truly listening to their needs and stories from the day and being silly. I cannot say I feel divine as the tidal force of chaos rushes in against my legs and my children’s loud banter crashes against me. That is not a divine state. This is where reactions are born – I react to their behavior instead of responding. It is the same thing we do when we pop a pill to treat a disease. Reacting is only treating symptoms, and it is a temporary and unfulfilling way to parent.
I now actively make a choice to release the guilt. I have sent that heavy ship out with the tide. I am investing in moment-to-moment parenting. I am scaling back the layers of my children’s behaviour and seeing them as greater beings. I am re-learning how to truly respond to them. I am uncovering the cause of their behaviour or distress, not treating the symptoms, and the results are magnificent. By stopping and listening; discussing and playing; thinking with them; and lowering my posture to stand for a moment in their world, I have learned to be a better mother and they happily respond in turn to me.
There are days where I find myself frantically running to the clothesline; usually in the morning – my night gown ablaze behind me, and my children mirroring my crazy dance. I can’t reason with them – they just don’t listen, and neither do I. It is a monster wrestling moment to not let the tide take me. The act of peacefully grounding my-self in the moment is a practice. A mantra. A bell of mindfulness. It has to be cultivated. And if I am better able to achieve that, I can respond with loving kindness and my children will do the same. I know this. I cultivate this; it what I do as an emotionally intelligent mother. Try it sometime. Wrestle that monster that causes you to react, and engage for a moment with your children and judge the results for yourself. This is attachment parenting at its most challenging, and yet most rewarding.
Written for Nurture Magazine Spring 2012 – Melanie Robinson ND BHSc