Just the other day in Summer Camp, a mom read a worksheet on her screaming, upset six year old.
Some of my favorite worksheets for myself have been the ones I wrote on my kids, especially my daughter.
Sometimes, it would feel like this incredible child was my guru of all gurus, the teacher who was knocking to my knees.
Kids are so great that way.
They stick around, they live with you or are there a whole lot of the time on a regular basis. No getting away from it.
And you don’t want to, not at all.
Recently my 17 year old daughter was away on a trip with her dad and brother. I went into her room to find something….
….and saw the clothes all over the floor, the clothes on the bed from when she had been packing her suitcase, the piles of things on her desk, her wardrobe doors opened with stuff spilling out.
I spontaneously started cleaning it up. I had seen it before, it had been like this for months, my mind had some chatter stirred up about lack of cleaning and messiness and blah-blah-blah but I felt energy, action.
I love turning dirty-ness to clean-ness.
It was fun.
Now, that’s not the “difficult” part of the story.
Fast forward to her arrival back home, just the other day.
She marches in to my bedroom where I’ve been working. She is furious.
“Where is my wallet?!!! It was on the floor in the exact place I always put it–you moved it!!” Frustrated eyes looking at me.
Pause, breathe, hold it…no wait…no, don’t go there. Wait…oh no!
Yep. I did it.
Me: “Well, if you had cleaned up your room beFORE then I wouldn’t have HAD to do it and then YOU would know where your wallet was!”
Her: “You move things around every time and I HATE it!”
Me: “You are so disrespectful!! I cleaned your room up and you should appreciate it!!”
I said it pretty loud.
OK, it’s called yelling.
She started crying.
Instant softening of my body, a sort of collapse down, awareness that I have hurt my kid, that I snapped, was impatient, felt furious.
I quick sat up, opened my arms up to her, and said “I am so sorry I just got so mad at you. I was so happy doing that job, and I love the way it looks now, and I thought you would like it too instead of getting upset you can’t find something.”
Now a key underlying belief in this kind of exchange, once you do The Work on “she should appreciate what I’ve done for her” (not) is to look at this one, which can be very insidious and very painful:
I shouldn’t get angry.
Seems true, right?
I should be tolerant, patient, confident, loving, kind, powerful, clear and direct at all times with my kids. I should never be triggered and turn into a brat myself. I should be mature.
Is that true?
Well, yeah. Duh!
Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
No. There are, apparently, thousands and millions of parents who are not tolerant, patient, confident or grown up with their kids. Apparently on planet earth, mothers, including me, get angry and fed up sometimes.
How do you react when you believe you shouldn’t snap, throw your hands in the air, feel pushed to the limit, or get angry?
I feel very bad. Depressed. Quiet.
I see images of how my dad used to feel so upset with himself when he got angry and raised his voice, which was only about once a year, maybe. He would leave the house for hours. It was like he committed a major crime.
I feel frightened of how my kid sees me, how others might see me, I feel ashamed.
But who would you be without the belief that you shouldn’t get angry, and you feel bloody angry?!
Now that’s different. Without shame about actually feeling anger, or rage, I allow it to run through my body. I notice how much I care about this situation, about myself, about my daughter.
I actually feel excited.
This anger is alive, powerful, like a burning flame. It crashes through me and I notice how I’m absolutely madly in love with my daughter even when angry with her. I see how I don’t want to hurt her at all, and she doesn’t want to hurt me either.
I relax completely around her needing to like a clean room. I notice that I love clean rooms, but its not a requirement that anyone else, or that she, loves them.
I should get angry.
There’s a message in this passionate surge of feeling. It’s beautiful, striking, wild, big. I seem to care about this. A lot.
I should notice how much I love clean rooms, I can respect myself in this conversation, I can have great compassion for a moment when a wallet seems lost, I can ask what it’s like for her, we can brainstorm from here where the wallet might be, I do not need her appreciation, I need to appreciate myself, and appreciate her.
All in a burst it’s over. She suddenly remembers where her wallet is (not in her room) and goes to find it.
Even if I don’t like that I felt so at war, hostile, defensive or upset in that flash of a moment…I appreciate the presence of the swift, powerful energy of anger.
I’m still learning today, because it was present.
I notice I love the story of passion, energy, change, revolution.
“What is this inner revolution? To begin with, revolution is not static; it is alive, ongoing, and continuous. It cannot be grasped or made to fit into any conceptual model. Nor is there any path to this inner revolution, for it is neither predictable nor controllable and has a life all its own.” ~ Adyashanti
Feeling angry doesn’t mean you have to hurt, break, punch or harm anyone. It’s just a feeling.
You’re not wrong to have it.
And then from this point, you can see what else is true, and take the most balanced, jedi, powerful path with your passion. Maybe anger is love in disguise.
And we’re taking off the costume here, and seeing what’s real and what’s left.
Wow do I ever love that kid.
Much love, Grace