Man yesterday was a landslide. A landslide that left me in tears, and brought me the realization that I had unknowingly landed myself right where I was. Our oldest is 3.5 and she is basically a teenager. Talking to her baffles me almost everyday, and her recall of events and interactions is nothing short of someone that has a photographic memory.
We are very diligently working on asking for things that she wants. As an older sister, she takes the liberty of snatching things from her sister countless times each day. She understands the difference between statements and questions and is fully capable of both. She also is very familiar with the word please. Her first go to move is to grab and pull. Then she will use a statement if the grab and pull doesn't work. Typically the statement comes out quite loudly as you can imagine. Then the screams start. If I can catch the interaction at the beginning, I will remind her to ask, and her sister thankfully, usually complies.
This morning she tried the grab and pull once, and it immediately turned to screaming. I pulled her aside to talk with her about it. This usually turns into crying, and her dodging eye contact with her favorite move kicking her feet and burying her face in nearby pillows. Basically anything to avoid interacting with me, I believe is her goal. We got it sorted and back to the day. 30 minutes later, same situation, same turnout.
Then about an hour later it happened again. Same approach from yours truly, but the interaction was different. Something in her behavior felt off. I asked her if she was scared, and she said yes. My heart sank. Then she said Mama will protect me. And my heart sank again. I asked her if she was afraid of papa, and she said yes. CRACK, right in my heart. I felt horrible. I asked if it scared her when my voice was loud, and she said yes. I felt so small, and clearly that I had failed. I realized that my own frustration, and my failure in communication had been scaring her. I was literally my own worst enemy. You see these interactions when she isn't listening and she is enveloped in her emotional situation is her part. My reaction, and my choice of actions is my part. Raising my voice is my decision. My frustration is on me, not her. I was projecting this on her, and now she is scared. What a joke. I have written about raising my voice before, because it is always in my self talk. Today I failed again. But today I chose a different route to move forward.
At this time she had tear filled eyes buried in a pillow, and I was sitting next to her. I told her that I was sorry for raising my voice and didn't know it made her scared. I told her that I loved her very much and would always protect her. I told her I wanted to make her a deal. Her head came up out of the pillow. I let her know that it frustrates papa when she doesn't listen. We had spoken about asking for things all morning, and she wasn't listening to my words. She fully understood, and agreed to listen. I told her if she agreed to listen, I agreed to not raise my voice. We wrapped pinkies in the style of two kiddos making a pact and she laughed. I asked her a few times throughout the day about our deal, and she remembered immediately.
You see we as a family are in a time of transition. Jobs have been changing, we recently moved to a new place, and the girls are in pure growth mode with plenty of attitude to boot. I have my own personal frustrations that are my own. My daughter does not have anything to do with those. Today I carried these frustrations into our interaction and now we were paying the price. I had created space in our bond, I had pushed her away. This slowly began to break me. The sudden realization of what happened allowed me to stitch up this space and bring us back together. What scares me is taking this interaction and expanding it into years. What happens if this is the way I went about my parenting for years? What kind of space does that create? How would I ever make up for that? Could I ever recoup what was lost?
To be real honest, experiences never go away. We learn from them or we don't. We can repeat the same cycles or we can choose to live differently. We always have memories, and our past is always ours. But today, we can be better. Walking through your days consciously, and plugged into your experience bodes well for our lives. Today I have the opportunity to parent my girls without raising my voice, I have the fortunate opportunity to build our relationship as opposed to slowly breaking it.
I can't ignore the accountability side of this proposition. This means I must provide an outlet for my frustrations and my struggles. I am vowing to my child that her relationship/bond with me is more important, than my lack of outlets for personal struggle. There are a myriad of methods to handle such things. When I look at my current situation, I can immediately identify outlets. Well, I felt failure, I felt my heart drop, I saw my daughter, my firstborn daughter scared of me because of my voice. And this quickly will break me, much faster than any outside force. This one thumped deep, not a pleasant feeling.
Admitting to myself that having children is not only about teaching, but its heavily founded in learning has been really helpful. This is a continued reason this blog and this community exist. I need community and I need resources. Failing at the expense of your children is not fun, nor is it on my list of proud moments. But I am willing to learn from it and talk about it in hopes that someone else might find some clarity. Our whole lives revolve around the importance and quality of our relationships. In any interaction there are two parts, accepting my part has been a huge help in creating more loving relationships.
Setting aside time for ourselves to renew and recharge is huge. With kids this becomes very challenging. But the cost of the other side is much more horrifying than losing a little sleep, or remembering to go to the gym. Meditating or reading, or taking a walk, whatever your moments might be. Make sure to get those. Take it from a guy who missed those a few too many days in a row, and found myself in this position. Its terrible. Inaction breeds a host of inglourious outcomes. Be vigilant in your pursuit of yourself, because you are your best when you are. Our kids and our families need us at our best. Respond in the comments with your successes, hell if you want write about your failures. Its that last day of the year. Today is the perfect day to start. Or maybe just fire it up tomorrow. Thats a good day too. All the love guys.