My daughter Addison is 10 and she is a sensational kid. She is wise beyond her years, kind and compassionate towards all. She has lovely manners and a whole lot of spunk (it is one of her most charming characteristics). She makes us laugh constantly and has more confidence than the average 50 year old. She is a firecracker and we are lucky that she always listens and follows the rules. Now being the spit fire that she is, she will always voice how she feels about the rules, but she follows them....or at least she did, until last Wednesday.
On Wednesdays, online school isn't live, so the kids have to work at home on assignments on their own, not Addison's favorite. So naturally, it takes her forever to get her assignments done. It was nearing 5pm and she still had one more task to complete, when an old friend from the neighborhood who moved away rang on the door for a surprise visit to ride bikes. Normally I would have told Addison she could go out once her work is done, but this being a one time visit, with a buddy she misses, I said "ok, but you have to come back in at 6:30 and finish your schoolwork." She agreed and bounced off happily to reconnect with her friend.
Remember Addison is great at following the rules, so she returned at 6:30, and may I also remind you she has a lot of spunk in her little 10 year old body, so she returned right on time, only to ask if she could have more time, of course.
She wanted to ride bikes over to the neighborhood right next door to ours (there is a huge hill the kids love to bike down) and she ran up into the kitchen to ask if she could go to the hill. I said "no, it's time to come in and finish your schoolwork."
Well, I'll be damned if Addison didn't walk right back outside, get on her bike and ride away to the neighborhood next door ANYWAY.
WTF...I stood on my back deck watching as my once angel of a child completely disobeyed something I just said not 14 seconds sooner.
Ooooooo...I felt it rise up quick. The hot steaming parental inferno of anger. It came up so quick I swear I felt steam exit my ears. My mouth hanging wide open, I stood there and watched until I could no longer see her. Completely hijacked by my emotions, I didn't even wait and think about how I was going to handle this. I took all of my raging parent anger, hopped in my car and peeled wheel into the next neighborhood where I saw Addison with a bunch of other kids. I'm not going to lie, this excited me even more for I now had a rare moment to embarrass the hell out of my child, hoping it would shock her into never doing this again.
I pulled up fast, slammed on my breaks, rolled down my window and in my meanest Mom voice possible said "GET HOME NOW." She stood there stunned. I didn't even wait for a response before rolling up my window and peeling wheel back home.
Now I in my car and Addison on her bike, meant that I beat her home and had to wait for the confrontation, which in my mind I saw play out...me yelling and her crying. This was her first big error in an otherwise squeaky record. So it was gonna be an intense conversation I could feel it in my throat.
But something really important occurred that saved us all and thank god because nothing good comes out of yelling and screaming, but at the time I was so shocked and stunned that I almost let my emotions take complete control of my better judgement.
Since I beat Addison home, it forced me to "sit in my shit" if you will. I stood there in my kitchen, waiting, hyper focused and intensely present and as I waited for Addison to pedal home I just kept naming, out loud, how I was feeling.
"I am so angry" again and again and something magical occurred. The combination of being present and naming what I was feeling, allowed some of the steam to evaporate and as some of my anger cooled, it made space for grace.
We teach about this very thing in Mindfulness. When we name what we are feeling, it allows us to regain control of our brain that has been hijacked from the stimulus of the strong thing that triggered the reaction (in this case, being disobeyed by my kid for the first time ever as a parent).
Here I was watching the very neuroscience behind it all playing out n my own visceral experience. Believe me, my limbic system wanted to yell and scream. I got so triggered by Addison's behavior that I lost connection to the higher center of my brain where logic and reason are wired, but I was able to reconnect to it by softly naming over and over what I was feeling, while remaining focused on being present.
To my own surprise when Addison came home the conversation was one filled with love, calmness and compassion. Since I was calm and gentle she actually listened when I talked, she heard me and I held space for her to express herself.
I am no parenting genius, to the contrary, I have no idea what I am doing half the time, but this wasn't a stroke of parenting strength. No this was the work of something bigger. This was thanks to the space that was made in my kitchen for grace.
We all have this grace within us. It's an inner resolve that comes to scoop us up and carry us through the stress before us with a sense of effortless ease. You've been touched by moments of grace in your own life, you've felt its force help you glide through a challenge or a bump in the road. I've found in my own experience that we can access grace when we get still and quiet ourselves when we want to rage, lash out ,what have you.
Our take away is to remember to pause when we are feeling triggered, to breathe and gently name what we are feeling and it will make a space, a super juicy healing space for grace.