Recently, my sweet boy had a very rough string of days. He was defiant, resistant, and simply disagreeable; no matter what approach I took with him. Looking back on the past month, I can very easily chalk this up to his intense case of ‘June-i-tis’. Parents, teachers, and caregivers know exactly what I am talking about. It is the absolute ‘done-ness’ with routines and expectations that seems to hit our kids at this time of year.
That said, the reason for his shift in behaviour is not the important part. What I wanted to share with you is the very humbling, enlightening moment that arose out of his intense frustration; because it was in that moment that I realized the single most important message we all need to receive.
Of course, this all happened at bed time, as these moments often do. On this occasion he had decided that because he had to brush his teeth before bed, he simply couldn’t stay in the family. He was going to live as a ‘street child’ on his own. Not sure where the concept came from but basically he told me that a street child is a child that lives on the street until a more suitable family comes along to take him away from all this agony. Hello pain body! Unfortunately, he was not in any emotional place to hear about his pain body or settle down with a back rub or meditation. He was done!
So, I simply let him be; both physically and emotionally. I said, “it appears Mommy can’t help you right now, I am sorry you feel so frustrated about brushing your teeth. Let me know if I can do anything to help” and I left his room.
One of the things I have learned the hard way is that our kids are not so different from us when it comes to their emotions. It is just as difficult for a six year old as it is for a 36 year old to sort out what they’re feeling when someone stands over them and repeatedly tells them they “need to calm down”.
A few minutes later I returned and silently watched him pack some very interesting items in his back pack (of course all street kids need matchbox cars) and march himself past me to our coat room. I waited a couple of minutes and then followed him down the stairs giving him space, but letting him know I was there. He was calmer now, but still in no place to talk about what was really bothering him. As he struggled to get his shoes on, I asked a few questions about his plans and offered some information about the realities of life on the street, hoping this might deter him. But once he capped off his Superman pajamas with a fleece hat and his ski gloves I knew I had to let him carry it through. He said good-bye with a stoic and determined look on his face and entered the garage.
I went out the front door and waited to hear the side garage door open, but it never happened. A few minutes later, I returned to the coat room and he was sitting on the floor, backpack on his back, hat and gloves still on, staring at the wall. I could tell in an instant it was over and he was ready.
I got down on my knees, silently removed his heavy load and wrapped him up in my arms, accepting all the tears that in an instant seemed to fall out of him. It was like a dam had been released. We made our way to his room, but the tears just kept coming. I asked him what was bothering him so much that he could not stop crying. At first he said he couldn’t tell me, but after a few more sobs he mustered a response that will forever change my relationship with my kids and their behaviour.
“I am upset because I have been such a bad boy this week. I have been awful to you Mommy.”
His guilt swept over me like a wave and in an instant I could see decades of my own conditioning on his sweet six year old face.
As children, we were taught to be “good” boys and girls, which of course implies we were not that already. We were taught that we’re good if we clean up our room, or we’re good if we make good grades. Very few of us were taught that we we’re essentially good. Very few of us were given a sense of unconditional approval, a feeling that we’re precious because of what we are, not what we do. And that’s not because we were raised by monsters. We were raised by people who were raised the same way we were…What we lost was a sense of our own power. And what we learned was fear, fear that we weren’t good enough, just the way we are. ~ Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love
He fell asleep wrapped around me that evening hearing the only message he will ever need; the only message any of us needs.
“I love you no matter what you do or say. You are perfect just the way you are.”
With love and thanks,