Motherhood and Body Wrestling
Last several days I have found myself feeling edgier than usual. I almost wish it was as simple as saying that it is that time of the year, vata season and winds of change making me feel ungrounded. But I resist the temptation knowing it’s sometimes a way to make more excuses than not, instead of choosing to look at myself honestly and responsibly.
Over the past two weeks, my girls have unwittingly taken a liking to body wrestling. Body wrestling from the wee hours of the morning to the minute they walk in the door from school. This means pummeling and dragging each other across the floor with one of them inevitably getting hurt. Laughter quickly turns to screaming and crying, only to be recycled over and over again. I find myself needing to take many deep breaths to let them know that I think that they could get hurt, but then allow them to make their own choices and manage through the consequences. Lots of deep breathing as I hear them screaming for me to rescue one or the other. Many days into their newfound hobby, I finally decided Mommy was not going to show up to rescue either of them, unless it was an emergency. Part of me wants them to play and fight as kids will, and part of me wants them to learn which words, actions and behaviors are skillful and which aren’t. I offer my advice when I think they are willing to listen and then there is a lot of internal work in stepping back and holding space for the absolute chaos. This can leave me feeling like I want to scream and lose any sense of restraint myself. The closest I came to this this past weekend was to lock myself in my bedroom for about an hour, while the chaos ensued outside my four walls. I almost felt a little selfish, but I knew I needed a little space to ground and center.
In addition to the body wrestling, attitude is in high gear at times. This includes making faces, rolling eyes and back talk. I know it’s a phase and perhaps one I will continue to work with for a long time. I am sure my own Mom can attest to this as well. When my resources are low, my capacity to respond to either attitude or body wrestling is minimal and unskillful. I forget to breath and to stay with what I am feeling, instead I am quick to react, raise my voice and offer threats that are very counter productive.
This morning, with an onslaught of attitude, I somehow managed to keep my voice low and my reactions to myself. Though I wanted to burst at the seams and yell back, I thankfully didn’t. I didn’t lock myself in my bedroom either which was a huge success on its own. Instead I stepped back and proclaimed that I was done trying to have a conversation. I told my girls that I would be waiting in the car for them, and that I felt disappointed and expected more from them. I gave them an opportunity to reconcile with me to no avail, so I headed for the car to breath and wait patiently for several minutes while they felt flustered gathering their belongings for school. There was some more back talk in the car drive to school, to which I only offered my disappointment and silence. A lot of Silence!
I know for my girls removal of privileges is not very effective. As a pattern, it’s not the way I prefer to parent, though I know there are situations where it can be useful. What I have found is that silence works quite well for my seven and nine year old girls, but it does not come easy. Silence comes counter to me wanting to scream or handing down black and white do’s and don’ts. For me to offer silence requires that I sit with everything stirring up inside of me. Thank God I have a meditation practice that can help here. Sometimes it feels like a pot of water coming to an explosive boil, but with no where to go except for my own awareness, the reactivity slowly dissipates.
The other side of this coin is my girls. Holding them in a space of silence requires that they sit with what they are feeling toward me and within themselves. They are forced to sit with the feeling that their mom is disappointed with them. I strongly dislike being the disappointed mom, but it feels more skillful than the yelling and threatening version of me. Silence during a car drive has an even more powerful affect since there is literally nowhere to go. Granted for strong-minded children, silence and disappointment alone may not work immediately, but I think when it does work, it has the potential for great impact even if on only on that one occasion.
After the silent car ride this morning, my daughter finally offered what seemed like a sincere apology. Moms can tell when the words are sincere and when they are not. I told her that my expectations of her were high and that I knew she was capable of carrying herself with much more skill and calm. I told her that I loved her and just like that we all felt a little more anchored.
All this said, I know that these are all good challenges and much smaller than challenges that could be. Though, I’ll admit in the moment of reactivity, perspective seems to quickly slip away. I am thankful to have two healthy girls and more support than many have. I also know that part of growing up is testing the boundaries of who and what we think we are. I am sure this afternoon we will move full circle back into body wrestling, a little back talk and attitude. For now I am thankful that they have a wonderful school to go to for several hours and I will be sure to take some time for self-care before the afternoon quickly approaches. Motherhood is quite an incredible journey and much respect to all the mom’s and dad’s out there. Breath in and peace out.