I made an important realisation the other day. I mean, I knew this – I know this! But I had to be hit in the head with the concept to remember it:
When I am in a good place, my kids are in a good place too.
In Danish we have a phrase: “Being hit with a drawbar”, which we use when something is so obvious, but you just can’t see it until it smacks you in the face. And in this instance several drawbars were attacking me continuously for a few weeks before I woke up.
You know those periods when it seems the kids act up more and more? They just go on this rampage spiral, where everything they touch or even think ends up in fights and yelling and resistance. And in order to put some level of order to the chaos, you start ruling with a tighter and tighter fist. More No’s, more yelling, less give and less slowing down around them so you can be prepared for the next attack.
Well this is what was happening in our house. Both kids were engaging in behaviour very unlike them at school, I was getting more and more attitude at home, Kai would hate everything I suggested from dinner options to activities. At one stage he was desperate to leave the house, but wanted to stay home…
And I was getting more and more frustrated. How much more would I have to stand my ground, how much firmer would I have to get to make things happen around here and to let them know that some behaviour is not tolerated?
The tighter I pull on the reigns the more the kids try to loosen them.
The less I give the more they want to take.
The less compassion and heart I show them the more they require…
But where was I going to find the energy to come back to all of that, when I myself felt like I was running on empty?
WHACK, WHACK, WHACK!
I was feeling so exhausted from trying to fight the chaos and keep a level of calm around me, that I had used up all my resources.
So, it started with me checking back in with myself. What do I need?
I needed sleep, urgently.
When Caleb goes away I have a bad habit of not turning off the lights, and this had crept back in. It only takes one night of not enough hours for me to take it out on the kids. I wake up grumpy and stressed, and when I ask the kids for help and they go about their day as per normal (with normal levels of snail pace and resistance to getting dressed) I go wild. Sleep is paramount for me!
My meditation practice had also become less of a practice and more of a nice idea. So, I started taking five minutes immediately after I wake up, before I get out of bed, to focus on my breath, my body and connecting with myself. I knew that if I was to get back into my normal habit of 30 minutes in the morning I would crash and burn quickly. Slow and steady wins the race, so I set myself an achievable goal that I can expand on, rather than the ideal that won’t happen for a while yet.
And most important in terms of the kids, I started stopping and listening.
I started feeding back to them their emotions, their words, their experiences. I apologised for how I dealt with what was going on at school and reminded my kids that I love them and I am looking out for what is best for them. By starting with verbalising what they are going through I not only make myself slow down before making judgement, I also show them that I am hearing and seeing them. A tangible/physical exercise is the best way to change the neural pathways from one type of behaviour to another because your attention is focused on the expression rather than the standard modus operandi.
On the back of this, I have realised that engaging in poor behaviour at school was a result of all the pressure they were feeling at home. They’re not bullies (the mere thought was breaking my heart, which is why I got so tough with them), rather they miss their dad, and Naya especially is battling some level of insecurities that we’re slowly unpackaging and trying to get a handle on.
By standing by her side and not scolding for the choices she makes at school but rather lead by example, hopefully we can move through this period in her life without casualties.
And this is something I can only do when I am looking after myself!