The Longest Mile
Not sure exactly what prompted her to start screaming. Could have been a number of things and truth-be-told, the “trigger” isn’t what’s important. The event itself isn’t even all that important. What’s important is the learning. What’s important is what I am going to do the next time this happens and what I am going to do in all the moments in-between that make up my daily life with this extraordinary child. What’s important is that I found the courage to look at my 9 year old daughter with love, compassion, respect and admiration, while she was screaming at me (at the top of her lungs) as we walked down our quiet back road and out onto the main road during our morning walk to school.
The Courage to Love
I had to rally every ounce of courage and strength inside me in order to look at this 9 year old, nostrils flaring, fists clenched, teeth baring and lips snarled, walking backwards in front of me screaming, as the neighbors walked from their homes to their cars and drove by us, afraid to make eye-contact.
I had to muster up bucket loads of self-restraint not to retaliate when she hit my elbow and my morning cup of coffee spilled out onto my leg and her arm, which precipitated a blood curdling scream from her and a claim that I poured my HOT coffee onto her, just as one neighbor was getting into her car.
Every creative cell that inhabits my body was called into action when it came time to remember her as the peaceful, beautiful, loving baby that was born unto this earth. And to repeat this quote from Rudolf Dreikurs in my mind, with each step,
“In order to be able to exert a constructive influence on your child you must learn to observe her objectively. This you can do only if you take her misbehavior less seriously. You must stop regarding her faults as a moral issue. The child who misbehaves is not a “bad” child. She is only unhappy, misguided and discouraged, and has not found the right answer to the social problems which confront her. Every misbehavior indicates an error of judgment in her efforts to find her place within the family and to meet the demands and pressures to which she is subjected.” -Rudolf Dreikurs, MD, “Coping with Children’s Misbehavior: A Parent’s Guide.”
No, for those of you asking, I did not remember that quote word for word – however I have read it enough times and embraced the concepts in the Parenting On Track™ program founded on these principles, that I could access the essence of this in my heart, my body, and my mind.
Inspired to Give In
After 1.2 miles the screaming stopped, a soft, gentle, small hand reached up and grabbed mine. That small hand held on so tightly and so completely that I immediately gave thanks to the Universe for keeping me safe and strong, and keeping me from behaving in a manner that would cause fracture to this delicate and yet solid relationship. With a voice hoarse from screaming and full of genuine sorrow and integrity – my daughter apologized.
We proceeded to walk the rest of the .5 miles to school and created some connections about the road, the leaves, our strong leg muscles and full bellies to fuel us through the day.
On the walk home, I reflected. Reflected on what just happened, what I learned, and what I would do the next time my discouraged child joined us for our morning walk to school or trip to the grocery store or…
1. I believe in this circumstance, using the adage “move your feet” actually fueled the fire.
I believe if I had found a rock or a tree stump along the way and chose to sit down, the yelling would have stopped. I know in my heart, she would have found it completely distasteful to yell at someone who was trapped, open and vulnerable. She probably would have jumped into my arms for a heart-felt hug.
Instead, my walking just offered energy to the situation and her determination to wrangle me in. I could be wrong, but at least I have a plan for the next time.
2. Connection – That is what she craves. Give it to her. Give it to her as often as I can in all the moments in between. I have nothing else to do with her (as she manages her life quite nicely and could actually manage a Fortune 500 Company or a Country for that matter), so spend time with her connecting. What does that look like you ask?
- Make eye contact and don’t break it for anything.
- Listen to her like there is nobody else in the room.
- Ask her opinion on everything.
- Ask her for help solving my problems.
- Take heed to her advice, when she has a better idea.
- Hug her. Hug her like there is no tomorrow.
- Smile when I see her coming, even if she is mad at me.
On my walk home, I also spent a great deal of time re-framing my perspective and finding the “good” in the morning.
1. I live with one feisty, stubborn, tenacious young woman and she is NOT afraid to say NO. May she have the courage to access those qualities when someone who does not have her best interest at heart, tries to influence her.
2. She knows what she believes in and is not afraid to stand up for it. She is still working on the best way to communicate her beliefs, but by-golly she knows what she knows to be true and is NOT AFRAID to let you know it.
Courage is not always tidy.
My daughter is courageous. That is who she BE! She stands up for herself. She stands up to bullies. She stands up for those she loves (and those she doesn’t). She stands up to ME. I love her and I am committed to matching her courageous nature with my own. I commit to doing whatever it takes to BE the Mom she deserves.
Lizzy, I love you!