I could literally see the hugeness of my daughter's tonsils tonight as she raged against the inevitable putting on of pajamas and going to bed. She has this way of screaming that isn't a high-pitched shriek but nevertheless hits a tone that precisely rattles the eardrums of anyone within a five-mile radius, I'd guess. It's enough to make dogs roll over and run away, tail between their legs.
Parenting is not the easiest role I've ever taken on, and going into it a second time feels more daunting than the first, not less.
But there is something here. I am learning something different here. In these moments of her absolute rage-driven fury and full-fledged anger, I'm learning to hold steady. I'm learning to be the center of calm no matter what. To reassure this tiny little lady that all is well whether her emotions feel overwhelming or not. I'm learning I can withstand the torrent of her rage and come out on the other side, frazzled some nights, calm on others. But I can stand. (well, many nights I can stand, sometimes I crumble) And within the storm I can offer her something more.
I can offer. I can tell her she's ok. I can tell her emotions (even anger, rage, and sadness) are normal, fleeting, and absolutely NOT who she actually IS on the inside. When I do that, it makes a difference. After a good purge she calms herself and reluctantly does what needs to be done. It's kind of amazing to watch, but then my kid is amazing (as all parents know of their own children)
We have these tiny opportunities with everyone we know. Opportunities that are totally fleeting when the other person, or we ourselves are open in a raw, vulnerable, or rage/fear-filled way. If those moments are passed over, or we allow them to drag us into rage, fear, and pain - we're missing the prime opportunity to build real intimacy.
Brene Brown (you know, the Vulnerability TEDtalk) calls it Ordinary Courage. That is, it's not heroic to stand with my child while she screams bloody murder and to tell her she is a healthy wonderful being. I'm not rushing into a fire and saving puppies and kittens when I share my fears with my husband and don't know how he'll respond.... or when I kindly tell someone something I think they don't want to hear, but I need to say. But I'm being hugely courageous within the context of my ordinary life.
(I feel it as courage, which is to say, it doesn't feel comfortable ... and doesn't come easy)
Making the heart-to-heart connection, rather than the rage-to-rage connection moves us from a place of disconnect to a place of deepening trust, intimacy, respect, and love. That's where I want to be. It's where I want to LIVE all the time.
With the holiday season upon us I think it's time to prepare, not for war as we meet our families - challenging and lovely as they are - but to prepare for love. To look for those tiny moments to align heart-to-heart... a word, a listening ear, a touch, stepping up and being guided by heart rather than head. I think we can do it. Just takes some ordinary courage.