Intimacy is longed for but seldom embraced. The moment we meet it, we turn away. It’s easy and safe to be autonomous and completely independent. Acquaintances, neighbors, or employees don’t ask much of us, emotionally, but those closest to us do. Partnerships, marriages, friendships, or even the act of lending ourselves to our community or a charity ask that we give ourselves, fully. And when we do, our virtues aren’t the only things that we are in control of showing anymore. Every bit of ourselves is exposed. Yes, even those ugly, shameful parts that we wish others didn’t have to be subjected to. Intimacy brings out the best in us but also the worst.
In my case, motherhood has been the intimate relationship I have most longed for. Since a child, pushing a pink carriage around with blue-eyed, blond-haired stuffed toy dolls, I’ve wanted to be a mother. And while it has given me tremendous purpose and confidence in who I am, it has also made me question myself more than any other relationship I have ever been in.
“Mama, milky now.”
My almost 2 year old sweetly demands. Now?
I think to myself, where did she get that from?
Later that night, I find myself mid-sentence demanding, not as sweetly, that she, “Give it to Mama, now.”
My aha moment sets in.
Consciousness creeps in with it. My little walking, talking mirror reflects back to me my own unconscious behavior. I don’t like how ‘now’ feels and I’m guessing she doesn’t either.
It’s wonderful when we catch ourselves like that, in the midst of our unconscious, negative reactivity but it is also painful to be of witness to. It makes you wonder what else is being said without any awareness at all.
As creatures of habit, we often respond similarly in most situations whether it be with our children or the teller at the bank. Our anger and mumbled cursed words at the car that just cut us off doesn’t necessarily just vanish when we have children and we begin trying to discipline them. It spills over. And we must not, mistakenly, assume that we have the ability to control it around our children.
We do not.
It’s bigger than that.
We have to dig deeper.
We have to ask ourselves, why it is we are angry in the first place. And how may this subtle lingering anger that shows up in traffic jams, or in long lines at the grocery store, or when the waitress doesn’t get our order right, or when our neighbors wake us up in the middle of night, creep into and crush our children’s spirit without us even knowing it?
How will we react when our own children don’t meet our expectations?
I am an angry parent. I’ve realized that as I enter toddler years but what’s more important is that I have also realized something else. I am an angry person. Parenting has just magnified that. My daughter is not responsible for my short fused, snappy judgement. I am.
Children are extremely receptive to their environments. They are also not equipped yet to interpret and appropriately respond to the energy that is around them. They absorb it. Sometimes that is a wonderful thing, given the right circumstances, but other times it can cause problems when those circumstances are negative.
A child throwing a temper tantrum may be something we all have to experience as parents at least once in our lives but a child who, repeatedly, lashes out is not.
The older my daughter gets the more I realize that when addressing a problematic behavior in her, I must first address it within myself.
How am feeling? Am I angry, impatient, reactive? Or am I calm, reassuring, and responsive? Asking this question and shifting gears to a more relaxed state, drastically, changes the interaction between my child and I, if not immediately, soon there after.
It’s both terrifying and exciting to realize how incredibly influential we are to our children. It’s no surprise to me that my daughter brings about the part of myself I have had most trouble dealing with my entire life. Her spirit is asking something great of my own, she is awakening me to unresolved issues from my own childhood. And although painful, I am so thrilled and so thankful to be on this journey with her. I am dedicated to the positive change this will bring forth in my life and I know that I will emerge from this a better person and a better parent.
Everyday, I ask myself this,
Was I the mother I wanted to be, today?
Was I the person I wanted to be, today?
And if not, what can I change?
It’s not about fixing or changing our children’s behavior or feelings, it’s about becoming the parent that our children need and can change, naturally, in response to. Accountability is key. Own it, then forgive yourself. It’s not easy but we must try.
Were you the parent you wanted to be today?