Reading time: 2 minutes
Have you ever felt listened to, I mean really felt you were heard? How often does it happen? Especially in my early parenting days, I often felt alone and overwhelmed. While I had good friends, they were all in the same boat as me. When we would meet, we were always with our babies and toddlers in tow, so our conversations were interrupted and disjointed. Occasionally we would meet for ladies nights, which were great fun and good stress relief, but they weren’t the right forum for getting deep into the issues I struggled with every day.
So I did what many of the moms I knew ended up doing. I focused on surviving each day, perhaps with the help of a glass of wine during the witching hour! At the same time, I scoured the internet and books for tips and tricks to get through each day with a little more grace. When I stumbled upon Hand in Hand Parenting, a lot of their articles and tools resonated with me. They weren’t quick behavioural fixes, but offered tactics for building deeper relationships with my kids and feeling more supported in my various roles as Mom, wife, daughter, etc.
I have tried so many tactics over the years, and Hand in Hand’s are the ones that I find my kids respond to best and that leave me feeling the most competent as a mother. What’s very different from other approaches is that Hand in Hand encourages parents to find another parent to partner up with and listen to each other, allowing each person time to vent before things build up inside and become overwhelming or unmanageable. Being truly listened to, in confidence with another parent, was such a novel and helpful life tool!
I am still in the process of learning to listen to my children and to communicate with my partner in a way that we listen to each other and resolve issues peacefully. As with most big changes, it takes times, but seeing progress is so encouraging. I am so encouraged by this approach that I want to share it with other parents. I want to not only feel supported myself, but to help other parents feel that way too.
I am grateful to have gotten to know Kate Orson, another expat in Switzerland who also happens to be a Hand in Hand Parenting instructor and author of the book “Tears Heal: How to Listen to Our Children”. Kate and I would like to build a parenting support community with regular meetups that are guided through a series of workshops. Each workshop will focus on a hot parenting topic. The first workshop will focus on how to deal with our children’s big emotions while at the same time taking care of our own needs. She will offer tools to use with your children and introduce you to listening partnerships.
If this speaks to you, see the event details and contact for me with any questions. If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading and I really hope to meet you in Jan!
Reading time: 3 minutes
(Originally written on October 14, 2015)
I was THIS close to calling my 4 year old daughter a PAIN-in-the-ASS (PITA!) today to her face. And that wasn't the only 4 letter word I felt like spewing. For someone who strives to treat my kids with the same respect I want them to show me, I felt like I was slipping to the end of my rope while hanging off the edge of a steep cliff.
I knew that releasing those four letter words would be like opening Pandora's box to expressing all of the rage that was brewing inside. I mustered up the energy to take a few deep breaths, allowing myself just enough time to rationalise that yelling and screaming wouldn't improve the situation or make either of us feel any better.
My daughter was tired and functioning in a mode where she felt every.single.thing was an emergency requiring immediate(!!) attention. I was lacking sleep myself and feeling triggered by the constant demands, whining, and fighting with her brother.
I picked her up from kindergarten and she yelled at me to buckle up her car seat NOW!!! As my hands were loaded with bags and jackets, she screeeeamed for me to carry her from our carport to the front door. She whined that she didn’t like the lunch I made. She had a near full-blown meltdown every time her brother took the ball from her in our backyard soccer match. She peed on our living room floor (did I mention she is 4 years old?)! She called me “stupid mommy!” in her sassiest tone when I tried to straighten out the tablecloth that kept sliding around the table as she coloured. And the list goes on and on.
This wasn’t an entirely uncommon day for my highly spirited child. In addition to being tired, she clearly had built-up emotions that needed to be released and worked through. But today wasn’t the day for having conversations to work through issues, or for sharing hugs or a listening ear. Today wasn't the day for me to feel centered enough to tap into my parenting toolbox and instinctively know what my daughter needs. No, today was the day where I felt like a punching bag, and either wanted to punch back with my words or run away from the struggle.
Being an empath by nature, I find it very challenging not to get drawn into her drama and start acting like a PITA 4 year old myself. If I hadn’t just committed to a Positivity Challenge* with my hubby, then an entirely different four-letter word than PITA would have come to mind.
And then bedtime came. Suddenly my little PITA was filled with nothing but…love. L-O-V-E! She climbed up onto her brother’s bunk and gave him a sweet kiss good night. She climbed down and kissed his hand as it dangled over the edge of the top bunk. She hugged Daddy goodnight with all her might. As I was lying beside her in her bed, she told me I was the best “foodcooker” in the universe. She snuggled up close to me, kissing me a million times, each kiss melting away all the frustration, all the annoyances, all the urge-to-spew-4-letter-words feelings.
In just a few minutes, life transitioned from me wishing this day would be over already, to me wishing this beautiful moment would never end. Just like that, this other 4 letter word, LOVE, transitioned my feelings from one extreme to another.
And that’s when I realized that perhaps this is what polar opposites are about. Yin and Yang. Sun and the Moon. Positive and Negative. One can’t exist without the other, even though it’s quite easy to fool ourselves into believing we can find this sweet spot where life remains harmoniously balanced.
As someone who deeply craves harmony, I struggle with gracefully dealing with these extremes. But today’s extremes of destruction and redemption shed new light on an old issue. Maybe we need both the easy and the challenging moments so that we can more appreciate the easy and better work through the challenging. Maybe understanding this concept of duality can give us the perspective needed to allow our children - and ourselves - the time and space to release pent-up "challenging" emotions and to create more space for the "feel good" emotions.
When those sweet redeeming moments come, they make all of the crazy, difficult moments fade into the background and seem completely worth it. If just for a blissful moment.
*I will write about our Positivity Challenge in an upcoming post!
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Michelle Borner, a mom on 23 missions, blogs about her Deep Thoughts on a wide range of topics from parenting to conscious living to lessons from brain cancer.
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