This morning has been one of those days where my lack of sleep for the past three nights is catching up with me – due to my 4.5 year old daughter waking up with levels of anxiety (and slight panic) from 2:00 – 4:00 a.m. (keeping wide awake, unsettled and needing her mommy’s fullest attention). Never an easy feat in general – let alone in the middle of the night when both of our sleep is greatly interrupted. As a result this morning, my thoughts were preoccupied, my presence was a bit off-centered and my sense of calmness more easily triggered. It is rare that we see our own behaviors in the moment of events with our children but only after we have had time to sit, reflect and revisit the reasons things unfold the way they do.
So just as we were about heading out the door for school and I was about to get my daughter dressed, I asked her to please go potty. She said she didn’t have to go. I then asked “did you go when you woke up” and she said “no.” In my head, and given her recently past bladder issues, I became more pressed on my “agenda” and said “I really need you to go before we leave, especially since you didn’t go at all this morning” and she said “I will go at school.” I carried on saying, “but I don’t want you to have any potty issues” and she said “I don’t have them any more” and I said “I know and I don’t want them to come back” (my fear not hers). This back and forth agenda-driven thinking became the undercurrent of greater resistance between us both. She started to whine then said “I don’t want to get dressed” and ran off into another room (her avoidance). I went into the room and picked her up to get her dressed (my ego). She resisted even more (her ego). Not a real surprise to me as my energy approaching her was not neutral or present but still attached to my egoic agenda to get her out the door for school. It was not an option of not going to school. She ran off into another room. My husband was present and had interjected telling me to “pick my battles” (regarding going potty) with her and given she was up last night for two hours – this wasn’t the issue to pick. He was right. It made perfect sense yet I had too far of a grip on my agenda to see clearly.
I continued to gather all her school items and said “I’m leaving for your school and will be in the car.” Mind you she’s not even dressed. She called out to me saying “don’t leave”. So I went into the room where she was and said “then you need to get dressed” and she took my hand and walked into the living room with me. At the point, she was still upset and not happy and I (too) could still feel my own triggers arising further. Afterwards, I walked toward the door to get into the car and she was still on the couch with her daddy. He, being in a much more calm (non-engaged) mindset, offered to take her to school. He buckled her in the car, I kissed her goodbye, wished her a good day and told her I love you. They drove away and all was fine and I was now left at home being given an opportunity to think through how this could have played out differently.
So in creating this space and silence and thinking through Dr. Shefali’s wonderful teachings around conscious parenting, here is where I could have shown up more presently, while still holding firm and being resolve within myself (my own inner boundaries) and still meeting both of our needs more effectively:
1. AS-IS: I could have been more attuned to the as-is of the situation which was: she was tired, I was tired and less tolerable than usual. If I was truly more present to this awareness from the beginning (instead of being in my “doing” mode), I could have been more open and accepting of my state of mind and to her request and the rest of the events would not have unfolded.
2. EMPOWERMENT: When she insisted she didn’t have to go potty (even though I fully knew she did), I could have instead chosen to empower her decision by saying “okay then it is your choice to go at school but you will need to go before I head out of your classroom.” This would have better met both of our needs and this issue would have been non-existent. Now, had she had an accident on the ride there (which was unlikely), that would have been a natural consequence to her decision and a great teaching moment as a parent to talk to her about.
3. EGOIC AGENDA: But being that the latter was not the case, and as I pursued my egoic agenda on getting her dressed and going potty and her resistance (which is natural for a preschooler, let alone anyone who can feel the vibrational energies of one who is pushing against them), I could have then chosen to remove my emotional charge around the situation and instead of reacting with frustration and immaturity, given her the space needed to calm down (even if that meant being late for school). That space would have done me just as good and would have brought me back to presence versus being reactive.
4. CONNECTION: After I got her dressed, I could have spent a few valuable minutes connecting with her instead of walking off with a childish attitude of my own. Part of me was not in a present-filled mind in that moment yet had I gotten off my own band-wagon (of feeling frustrated), I could have shown up as she needed me in that moment.
Even as a parent coach, and through daily mindfulness, I fall short and feel like I need to just crack so I can center myself again, pick up the pieces and take inventory on where I have yet to grow through my daughter’s essence. It is through these real-life experiences that allow me to connect and resonate with many other parents who are struggling along their journey but have the greatest intentions to grow themselves more authentically in their parent-child relationship.
The point of this sharing is not about berating myself or giving my child what she wants. It’s actually the opposite and about consciously growing on this journey with my child, recognizing where I can get in the way of guiding her from presence and non-emotional reaction so that she can in turn better manage and cope with her own frustrations (whether they are instigated by her own doing or that of how I’m showing up – my fears, anxieties, ego). Each of us face this type of situation (similar, worse) on a daily basis with our children. As Dr. Shefali shares, conscious parenting is not about being perfect or reaching an end point, it’s a journey and an invitation to embracing and accepting our imperfections and unconsciousness as a way to awaken us more deeply.
Our children give us opportunities by the moment to go within and really see how we can better connect to ourselves. As we become more clear with how our children are showing up, we can get more clear within so that what we project is not contaminated with our ego but purified from our truest essence.