As many of you know, we had snow in Atlanta this week. I love snow days. I grew up in the South where for me snow days meant no school and LOADS of freedom and adventure. And the feelings of freedom and excitement I had about snow as a kid remain with me today as an adult. So when the snow started coming down on Tuesday my daughter and I took off outside with great exuberance, and we had a blast.
And for some video excitement, here is our 14-year old dog TJ racing through the snow, our nighttime adventure sledding down and up the big hill on our street, and our 70-year old grammy sledding…being a kid at heart is part of our family culture, LOL.
Naturally, I went to bed Tuesday night revved up like a kid on birthday’s eve. I couldn’t wait until morning and I laid awake dreaming about all the fun we’d have the next day.
When my daughter woke up Wednesday morning I made pancakes, eggs, sautéed spinach, oatmeal…I was ready to fuel up for a day of fun. We filled our bellies and donned our snow clothes. Then we headed outside to see our new world of snow and ice. I tied a leash to the sled and pulled my daughter around as we walked the dog (TJ), exploring the quiet, empty streets.
Soon more families came out, so we took TJ inside and headed out for more fun. Addi decided she didn’t want to sled the big hill again, so we sledded the smaller hills together. Then she began to cry. We went down more small hills together. Then she cried more. Her toes were cold. She requested we go home, so we did. She continued to cry until she warmed up, had a snack and rested on the couch with me.
Friends came over to play. My daughter cried and complained. Then she laughed and played with her friend. Then she cried more. They made bracelets. Then she complained more. They decided to go outside in their snow gear. They threw snow, made snow angels, and went sledding down the ramp from the shed. There was lots of laughter. And then there was lots of crying.
Lots. Of. Crying.
I was perplexed. I was annoyed.
Throughout my child’s upset I was utterly useless because I couldn’t step away from my own childhood experiences in order to be with my daughter in her childhood experiences.
My daughter needed me to move closer, to empathize, and to understand. Instead, I rolled my eyes, felt annoyed, and couldn’t believe we were spending this beautiful, snow-filled day crying and complaining about everything.
And at the end of the day…I couldn’t believe I was acting like such a jerk. I couldn’t believe I’d allowed my own expectations and desires to override my daughter’s needs for connection and understanding.
I also knew that dwelling on my mistakes would only drain me of the energies I’d need to follow through in my resolve to move closer, to empathize, to understand, and to be present in her childhood. And, of course, I would apologize.
I replayed the day to my (full-of-awesome) partner, and we reflected on what might have been going on. He said, “Well, she doesn’t like the feel of pants on her legs or the bulky jacket on her arms. It’s no wonder she was upset. She was probably overwhelmed by wearing both her snow pants and heavy jacket at the same time.” It seems so obvious now. Why didn’t I see it? Because I had my own expectations, my own agenda. My own inner child got in the way. I would need some serious self-compassion in order to regroup and move forward with my intentions the following day.
I woke up Thursday morning and set some intentions:
Today I will hear my daughter.
Today I will move closer.
Today I will empathize.
Today I will understand.
Today I will be present.
When my daughter woke we had breakfast and talked about the previous day, my mistakes, and how we might move forward together. She set up an invitation with some marshmallows, water and black paper so we could build snowmen inside.
Then she decided we should try making a cape before our cape-making party (thank you PAHM – we still haven’t been able to have our ATL party).
Then we had a friend over. I thought their play was cooperative and fun…and when her mom came to pick her I learned they had been “sneaky” (their words, not mine)…which also turned out to be unsafe.
Besides the obvious berating questions I had for myself (How I could miss it? How could I be so irresponsible? etc.) I also had some questions for my daughter…during which time I flipped my lid…I was on the verge of yelling and I spoke from a place of fear rather than empowerment. I was disrespectful and out of control…fear seems to do that, right?
Here’s what I wish I’d said instead (and eventually did say)…
- “How did you feel when this was happening?”
- “What do you think you could have done differently?”
- “I’m concerned you two could’ve gotten hurt.”
- “What can we do next time to be sure everyone stays safe?”
That evening my daughter and I went out to dinner together and had a lovely time. We laughed, told stories, shared a delicious meal, and healed a little. When we got home we talked to her dad. He listened quietly without saying a word. Then we started our bedtime routine, read books and went to bed. There was no berating, only more connecting and healing.
I woke Friday and reflected on the week’s events. I thought about the ways I was mindful and the ways I was not. I thought about how I thought I had everything “all figured out” when I woke up Thursday and set my intentions for the day, but how I really don’t have anything “all figured out.”
And then I thought about just how humbling it is to be a parent. I thought about how humbling it is to be an imperfect parent who writes a blog about parenting without punishment, who writes about the importance of connection, and who helps gently guide parents who are riddled with guilt and disconnection and regular ole “parenting is hard” struggles…all the while coming from a place of imperfection myself.
h u m b l i n g
As I write this I’m still struggling. I’m hurt, angry and disappointed with myself, and the trust I share with my daughter is a bit shakey. Yet at the same time I’m full of love and gratitude that everyone is safe. I’m full of love and gratitude for my daughter and for our relationship. And I’m full of love and gratitude for our online community that teaches me every day what it means to be human, to be a parent who fully loves her child even though I don’t always act from a place of love, and a community that teaches me how important it is to step out in vulnerability and love with courage.
I try to remember that every day with my child is an opportunity to act from a place of love. To step so fully into love that only love can survive. To immerse myself and my family so deeply in loving action that only love can emerge; because in the milieu of love and connection we all learn self-responsibility and compassion, internal motivation and grace, respect for others and respect for self, trust and understanding, capability and willingness to learn from mistakes.
If you’re a parent or otherwise involved with children, I invite you to be gentle with yourself, to dare to act from a place of love, and to simply make the intention to be present in every moment of every day to the best of your ability.
Thank you for all you bring to this community.