Lessons from momentary irrational uprising
What I fear?
Impacting my daughter in a negative way.
What will happen in her life? Because something will happen, many somethings will happen but, what will be her big struggles? Will I be one of them? Will I be there to catch and support her fall?
I fear shaming my daughter
I am hard on her. I yell at her.
When she whines or demands or expects, I have an immediate visceral reaction that I struggle to control.
Where does this come from why does this anger me so much?
One morning when she was five or six she took an old phone off the nightstand because she likes to pretend it’s hers. I’d told her no. I told her to give it back as she tried to hide it. She said but it’s mine. I said it’s not and you don’t need a phone and an iPad.
She said, “well you have both.” Insert 3-second pause before maternal explosion. That was the trigger. I began a rant in an ugly voice (not yelling but stern and almost talking down at her) I said things like ‘you can have it when you have worked as hard as I have. You can have it when your 41, you don’t need both you just want them” several other harsh statements came out.” There was more, literally it was an adult tantrum. Have you ever listened to yourself speak to your kids. (that’s a whole other blog post). Seriously Dr. Gaby, where do you come up with this irrational childish stuff?
At this point it’s about 2 minutes of me ranting. Her face is sad. She knows she has said something to upset me. She’s quiet. She’s scared. She’s shamed. She has disappointed her mommy and that’s her fear.
My tone, my facial expressions they convey disappointment. She is trying hard to listen but she’s scared. I’ve scared her.
It’s my fault …
How did I get here? I don’t remember my parents ever getting on me for things like this. But then we didn’t have as many things and just because I don’t remember it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I’m pretty sure it happened.
My brain is a whirlwind I’m at a loss for how to correct my impulsive reactions. Me, the Psychologist. the child therapist … is at a loss for what to do.
I realize my escalation I start to correct my action. I lower my tone and try to get to my point which was what again…. don’t be spoiled? You can’t BE spoiled it’s not a trait. If she is spoiled, it then it becomes my fault.
Don’t be entitled? Oh wait, she’s six and doesn’t even know what that means, also my doing because I’ve provided her all she has.
Maybe it’s… Stop asking for things! Oh wait again Dr.Gaby there are two reasons why not here.. 1) she is six and that’s what a child does. 2) I actually want her to speak her mind, express her thoughts, wants needs
Oh this must be it.. Can’t you read my mind child! Don’t you get that we are late and need to get out the door? Don’t you know I’m worried you won’t eat enough breakfast? Don’t you know I have to grow you into a successful humble human?
No that’s literally impossible but I wanted her to do that.
Truth of all of this cognitive ping pong, is really an emotional one. Fear.
Screentime freaks me out. I see in my work the black hole of time many of my patients get consumed by, adults and children. Video games, social media, twitter, news media, blogs, Pinterest, minecraft, you tube, online shopping. I’ve seen my daughter and my own mood and demeanor change when there is too much screen.
But the deeper fear that comes from that simple action of her taking the phone off my nightstand is a deeper subconscious fear for me. The fear of losing connection, fear of harming her in some way, and ultimately fear of losing love. That’s sounds a bit dramatic Dr. Gaby think your brain is way too analytical. Perhaps but bear with me …
You see there are always two things happening at the same time, the present moment and everything else.
My subconscious luggage is huge, totally over the weight allowance, and it’s my job to filter it. Most of it is not my daughter’s to have. But, that subconscious mind, those thoughts keep showing up like a flashing warning sign. That is the key though, its only a warning, its saying caution mama, tread lightly, check yourself, check the baggage you are about to unload in that moment.
Remember I said there were two things, the second one, that present moment is really where all the magic happens. It’s where I get to accurately assess the situation and intentionally respond. Accurate appraisal, my daughter is six and is curious and eager to explore the world and the world includes mommy and mommy’s phone. She see’s mommy and daddy on a phone a lot (ahem note to self) That is all. There is no hidden child agenda, that’s ALL my baggage.
A more realistic calm and connected message might have been this:
Realize what you have.
Think before you act.
HMMMMM is that it? Is this really the moment for me to teach this lesson to her?
No yet again, that’s my message, thats my baggage, but if you think about it, in that moment she and I could really benefit from a closer connection if I internalize that calm message. Realize what you have mama. Yes, realize what an incredible and curious human you get to connect with in your daughter. Think before you act. Yes mama, think before you act; think about the purpose of this moment and what opportunity you have before you.
If fear of losing the connection is the subconscious thought that led to the adult tantrum, then the counter is create a loving connection.
So once I gathered myself, honestly it was later that night. We sat and hugged and talked about what happened. We acted it out with her dolls. We played out different endings some silly, some angry, some more realistic. Then it was done.
Wow just wow!
Hold up the mirror mama, learn your own lesson.
Am I in this alone? Am I the only parent with this struggle? I might be but conversations with parents tell me otherwise. You are not alone moms and dads. This struggle is real, real hard, BUT real amazing once you shift perspective.
This lesson is brought to you from the mindful reflections after an irrational momentary uprising.
With loving kindness,
Dr. Gaby aka Mama