Small victory over my knee-jerk parenting self yesterday:
My daughter was taking her time getting ready for school and as I looked at the clock and realized that we would DEFINITELY be late (as it is, we are routinely last- or second to last in); instead of amping up the warnings and stress level, I let go and accepted how things were unfolding. Let me back up...
I remember so distinctly the morning routine when I was her age. My mother (also a single mom) was constantly urging me along, rushing me and stressing out, even threatening to leave without me. I remember feeling scared, guilty and confused. I remember often feeling she was angry with me and feeling like I was BAD.
Of course when I became a mother, the universe would give me a dawdler. My daughter has always taken her time. Meals take for-EVER and I notice that the more I push, the slower she goes. The lessons here for me are PATIENCE, ACCEPTANCE and PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.
I get triggered when I find myself in emotionally-charged situations that I experienced as a kid, yet now I am in the role of mother. The opportunity is to break the cycle of reactivity, as well as heal that little wounded part of myself. My choices are to knee-jerk and come from a place of stress and fear, or I can pay close attention to myself and make a more conscious choice. THIS TAKES A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF ENERGY AND SELF AWARENESS. And I'm not always successful. Sometimes I raise my voice and have to collect myself, apologize and start again. Sometimes I AM successful and I breathe through it, keeping myself calm and doing what I can to keep our routine moving forward with a lighter spirit. Every day I get more opportunities to practice. :)
Over and over I am shown the importance of RADICAL ACCEPTANCE in so many aspects of my life. Starting where we are and giving up the resistance helps us to recognize the way forward. Accepting the FACT that my daughter gets easily distracted and needs redirection helps me be less reactive and more solution-focused. Resisting this reality only causes more frustration for me which leads to conflict between us and becomes counterproductive to the ultimate goal of getting out the door on time.
The other, deeper and longer-lasting consequence of my resistance is the risk of my daughter internalizing my stress and (as young children automatically do) interpreting my frustration to mean something is wrong with her. Bad mommy!
I cannot honestly blame my daughter entirely for constantly pushing the time. It is largely due to my set-up. I don't get to bed early enough most nights, so it's hard to wake up with enough time to get myself together before I get her up and the domino effect takes over. Recognizing my part in this, I have recommitted to having general start and end times for the phases of the morning routine which I find to be helpful (for instance, up by 7:10, eating by 7:30, brushing teeth by 8:00...). By being more aware of the time, I am setting things up for success instead of avoiding the clock and freaking out when I see that the school doors open in 5 minutes and we are 10 minutes away from leaving.
The other, even more important aspect of personal responsibility is MY RESPONSE TO WHATEVER IS HAPPENING. This, naturally, relates back to patience and acceptance. I remind myself to be patient with the process (deep breaths...), accept what is happening (besides, it's not life-threatening...) and recommit to learning and doing what I can to improve next time. And when I drop her off with a smile and a hug and see the peace and joy in her eyes instead of the residual effects of our stress-filled morning -- that is worth all of the restraint and self awareness I exercised.
Whew. And all before 9am... :)