Monday, April 13, 2009

Attitude Adjustment

After several days of power struggles, tears, and way too much yelling I decided someone needed an attitude adjustment.

No, an attitude Overhaul. 

And that someone would be me.

Motherhood offers numerous personal growth opportunities as our children offer us a crystal clear mirror of who we are and who we present to the world.  Last week was a rough one for Ian and I.  I felt as if he were turning into an all-out brat. Screaming, power struggles, melt downs and then just down right meanness. There were moments I wanted to check out of the whole mothering thing and often I was mentally and emotionally checked out.  I was meeting these encounters with brute force. I was stuck in a mindset of winning. Like engaging in a struggle for power with him. I had to win because if I didn't he would "win" and then be empowered for a longer more drawn out display next time.   When the power struggle reduced to his tears and my yelling...and then eventually my tears of frustration, I still powered through. Firm I stood,  impenetrable to his efforts to manipulate me with his tears and anger. I am embarrassed to admit that I had made it practice to send him out of the room to cry and scream by himself.   While this never quite sat right with me as the best way to handle things, it was a far better option than to let his screaming start aggravating me so that we both lost it.  This happened too.  And from this I concluded that HE was turning into a brat and an angry child.  Talk about being a completely unconscious parent. 

  What I came to realize is that we were both miserable.  And what dawned on me one early morning was that I was modeling for him the very behavior I was trying to teach him not to do.   I want to raise a man who understands compromise, who not only treats people with kindness and respect, but who feels compelled to serve and protect those who can't do so for themselves.  Who listens to people, comforts them, and handles disappointments with dignity.  I was SAYING these lessons, but I wasn't living them.  As a family, he will learn how to navigate socially in this world based on the microcosm of our family dynamic. It is my role with my son to model desired behavior and I was failing to show him this example in our relationship.  How can a teach empathy and compassion unless I show him it unconditionally?

I want to raise a great husband for someone.  What I was currently doing was showing him BY EXAMPLE everything I didn't want him to be. Someone who argues, stands firmly against emotional outbursts, someone who abuses their power over people.

When this lightbulb lit up, I realized I was being given a glorious opportunity to grow as a human being.   "Be the change you want to see in the world."  Didn't someone quite evolved say that?  Oh yes. Ghandi.  

So I immediately made a shift.  When Ian seems to need attention or comfort from me, I give it  When he has something to say, I listen and validate.  Its not that I never did these things before, but often my own daily agenda would keep me from truly being present.  That's really all it is. I realized that when I was biting back or "standing firm" it was really just a matter my not being present with him in his moment. I was frustrated because he was putting a crimp in my routine. I am learning that when I am present, those struggles seem to melt away. 

Thanks to my friend Erin Goodman's beautifully written blog, she opened my eyes to my role in helping Ian re-center himself after a meltdown.   Particularly this entry.  Why hadn't it occurred to me before? He is relatively new here, to this place called earth. He's been here for 3 years. He doesn't have the experience or neural connections to handle disappointments in a graceful way and it is my unique privilege as his mother to teach him these things.  So now when he is melting down, I try to listen. To validate, to be present and hold him.  And then if he still just needs to cry, I hold the space for that.  Isn't that what we want when we are upset?  Sometimes I just want someone to listen to my rant and not judge it, fix it, or rush it along.  This is very challenging but have found the more present I am the quicker it passes.   

Filling my role as his mother in this way has also been more gratifying for me.  I am enjoying being his mother again.  And I think he might be enjoying being my son again.  After a rough few days, that is a very good thing.   There is a fine line between allowing him to run the show and allowing him to feel empowered and heard.  But in each interaction, I have a choice. I have a choice whether to meet him with anger or sweetness. I have a choice whether to respond with kindness or impatience. Either route will lead me to my end goal, but one way is a whole lot more enjoyable for everyone. Why not take the time and choose the one I hope he chooses as an adult?  Choose kindness. Choose peace. That's what I want him to learn.  This new approach seems to be paying off. My sweet, thoughtful, intelligent and generally happy child has re-emerged.  Ian is so forgiving of me as I stumble through parenthood.   For that I am truly grateful. 

1 comment:

Kirsten said...

Beautiful. Now you've gone and made me teary :^)