Parenting the Guru: Lessons in Manipulating Reactions
Yesterday was an ugly one for me.
It was just a nasty, frustrating day. The kind where you wish with your whole heart that you could either crawl into a tub with a bottle of wine, or crawl back under the covers. Except it's only 9:30 a.m. and you've dependants at home with you. Two of which don't know how to wipe their own arses, and one of which doesn't even walk yet.
So you trudge onwards.
In an attempt to rally my spirits, my partner, via text, asked me if I was looking forward to my date night with our son.
A few days prior, I'd been expressing how I'd love to reconnect more with my seven year old. He and I have an interesting relationship. Not a bad one, but an interesting one for sure. And by this I mean we challenge each other in the best of ways.
After listening to me express my wishes, my partner had suggested that I take some one on one time with the boy. A new movie was about to come out, one that our son was looking forward to seeing. Ever the thoughtful, considerate, and awesome man that he is, my partner suggested that I take our son.
Fast forward to my shitty day, and the reminder over text lifted my heart. Just the way my partner had intended it to.
"I'm going to make him an invitation!" I replied.
"And then put it in his lunchpail tomorrow!"
"And I won't say where I'm taking him!"
"And it'll say, 'Top Secret'!"
With each of my texts, I was feeling more and more elated. Everything I'd been feeling really crummy about before was falling away, as I plotted and imagined the glee on my seven year old's face.
"He is going to be sooooooo pumped!"
I hopped on Canva and crafted a sweetly dorky invitation that only a seven year old child could love. I could hardly wait to sneak it into his lunchpail the next day.
Fast forward to just past 3 p.m., and my son arrived home from school.
I wondered if he sensed any of my secret excitement. I tried to hide it from my face, but then I noticed he wasn't really looking at me anyhow.
He went about some chores, unpacking his lunchpail and putting his backpack away. Then he wandered into the backroom of the house, presumably to play some Lego.
"Hey Buddy! How was your day?" I called back to him.
"What did you do today?"
"I don't know."
"Well who did you play with?"
"What did you play?"
"What did you play?"
"Hey Bud! Why don't you come out here and talk to me! I'd love to hear about your day!"
He wanders out into the kitchen obediently, if not reluctantly.
"I don't know. I just want to play Lego right now. I don't remember what I did."
His refusal to converse with me sets off an unconscious trigger, and I can feel my cheeriness slipping. Doesn't he know I'm trying? Doesn't he get that I'm really putting an effort into being a more attentive, fun mom?!
I take a deep breath and try again, really focusing on keeping my tone even, breathing the edge of frustration out as calmly and discreetly as I can.
"Well, I haven't seen you all day. I'd just love to know what you got up to is all. I missed ya!" I throw in a little smile at the end.
It doesn't matter to me that he maybe just wants some space to decompress. It doesn't matter to me that maybe he had a hard day, too, and hasn't had the chance to just be on his own to breathe. Or imagine crawling into a tub with... herbal tea?
All I am focused on is how I'm trying to redeem myself as a parent, and in my eyes, he's not meeting me half way.
Our relationship is such that we rarely just spend easy-going time together. I am forever nagging him to get ready for school, or pick up his belongings, or brush his teeth, or to show me good listening.
He has a sweetness and an empathetic nature that defy description. He's inherited his father's extremely thoughtful ways, bless both their hearts. His gentleness and forgiving nature are gifts to all who are lucky to know him. I am well aware that he's here to teach me a thing or two about unconditional love and the power of forgiveness.
But, meanwhile, in this particular moment, his blank stare and unwillingness to converse whilst I am trying so hard to be the good mother are beginning to infuriate me.
There is a magical thing about parenting that some folks have not quite realized in their time on this planet. It's a reality that I am well aware of, and yet in my moments of Ego, it can so easily slip away on me:
They are here to raise us.
Let me say that again:
They are here to RAISE us.
Our job as adults, caregivers, teachers, and folks in authority may be to keep the little ones safe, to teach them about the world and how the every day works. But make no mistake about it, they are here to show us our true potential and they raise the stakes so that we may rise to meet ourselves.
No one will know your trigger points more intimately than a child in your life.
No one will push you to your edge faster and further. No one will demand your best, your best being that you face your shadows and integrate the sh*t out of them.
Who else could get away with such behaviour and still be embraced by our hearts? Who else could know us more intimately?
They've come to hold up the mirrors we most need, and they take their jobs very seriously.
I wish I could say that in my moment of feeling let down and hurt that I just gave my kid his space. I wish I could say that I recognized and respected his desire to just process his day on his own.
The truth is, that my Ego got the better of me. It was pouting about not running the show and it was feeling rather rage-y about being denied.
It was playing the I-am-the-parent-and-therefore-the-boss game.
I picked up the carefully crafted invitation, the one that I had planned to sneak into his lunchpail for the next day, and I shoved it at him like a tantrum-ing five year old.
"Here. I was going to surprise you with this. I'm trying really hard to just connect with you right now, you know."
I did. I know. I actually ruined the lunchbox surprise, just so that I could potentially make him feel guilty for not wanting to converse with me.
Ugh. I still shudder at the immaturity of it.
The even worst part is, that nowadays, I can usually tell when I am reacting out of Ego in those crazy moments of petulance. I hear it coming out a split second before the words are actually spoken, and I can hear my Higher Self saying, "No no no!" But my Ego beats her to the punch and it's as if half of me is cringing as the other half of me spits the words out, or makes the face, or sighs the sigh, or rolls the eyes.
And this time was no different. I could hear the inner, "Nooooo!" as I simultaneously was reaching for the paper and hurling the words.
Here's the thing, Dear Reader, the Ego evolves. As we get wise to its deep desire to maintain status quo, perceived safety, and control, it too catches on to our Light's growing strength. And so, there is an on-going evolution of both.
I say this not to discourage you. It's promising, really. Because the Ego is just another Guru. Just another teacher showing us where our blind spots and areas of growth are. It's just another voice pointing to the shadowed pieces calling for integration and recognition.
"So what happened?" you ask. How did my son respond to the paper thrust in his face?
Well, he quietly took it into his hands and he walked into the back room with it.
I stood at the kitchen island, breathing deeply into my stomach and I let the hot tears flow silently. I was not proud of myself, and the regret burned. The acidic taste of self-hatred in my mouth, I cried.
When I eventually poked my head into the back room, I found my son playing with his Lego, the paper invitation cast off to the side.
I wish I could say that I took that in stride, but instead, my Ego piped up, "Oh, I see that's how you feel about that."
"Just stop," the inner voice said gently. "Just let him be, it's okay. Everything is okay."
I turned back to the kitchen, returned to prepping dinner, and let the tears flow once again. I'd really ruined it. Not only had I ruined the surprise, not only had I been a bully, but my kid clearly wasn't excited at all at the prospect of having a date night with me. And I'd attempted to shame him with his honest reaction.
I wish I could say that I simply breathed, accepting that the outcome would flow as it should. That I tapped into some self-forgiveness and compassion, reminding myself that we both just needed a bit of space. I wish I could say that I reminded myself to clear energetically, that I was really just carrying the energy of the day into this interaction. That my son's want of quiet had nothing to do with me personally, that I was still a good mom.. That I could try again next time. That I could find my centre and then really forgive and use this as a teaching tool for myself and him.
But instead, I cried and felt sorry for myself. I berated myself for screwing it up again, for nagging him yet again, for being unreasonable and expecting behaviour from him that I'd never be able to give as a 31 year old adult.
I scolded myself for being manipulative and attempting to control his responses and reactions to suit my Ego. "That is fear, not love," I sighed.
"Why are you crying Bub?" A soft voice from behind me.
My son had come out to check on me in the kitchen, paper in hand.
"I am excited for our date." He wrapped his arms around my waist.
What followed was us sitting down together on the kitchen floor, apologies, and discussions about expectations, manipulating, and a soul's need for solitude sometimes. We talked about how we can ask for what we need, and how to express when we're feeling hurt, tired, or overwhelmed.
I tried my best to explain that I was expecting certain reactions from him, but that it wasn't fair of me to be angry when I didn't get what I wanted. I told him that I've really been working on going with the flow more, being okay with how others go about their day, rather than needing for everyone to "show me good listening."
Lucky for me, my guru is patient, loving, and an excellent teacher in unconditional love.
At the time of this writing, we're both excited for our date night.