What the last few posts come down to is an idea that is so self-evident you might just say, “duh!” when you read it: the way you think affects the way you behave. It seems so simple. But it’s deceptive: how aware are you of what you think?
Here’s an example: my six year old daughter’s mouth moves non-stop from the moment she wakes to moment she falls asleep. She chatters, sings songs from school, hums, makes up little ditties, asks questions, asks the same question again, gives her own opinion, shouts at her sister, etc. Most of the time it’s endearing, and a testament to the busyness of her brain! However, I find the repetitive non-sensical noises (“wwweeeeooow, weeeeeoooow, weeeeeeeeeeoooooow!”) to be grating to the nth degree! As Lizzie Bennett’s mother in Pride and Prejudice would say, “Oh my poor nerves!”
Whose problem is this? Mine, and mine alone. My child is making noises because it’s amusing, entertaining, distracting and fun. Children love repetition. I want my daughter to stop making the noise because I find it annoying. The more I have to listen to the noise the angrier I feel. So what’s making me angry? Is it my child? I’d say no. It’s me– my own need for quiet and peace; my own belief that repetitive noises are annoying; my own desire to be in control of my environment.
You might say, “Fair enough! No one wants to listen to annoying noises.” And that may be true. However it is possible to re-imagine this situation: instead of classifying them as ‘annoying noises’ what if I saw them as ‘brain-stimulating exercises’? What I’m getting at here is that the cause of my anger is me, not her. The way I react to this situation is a greater reflection on me than it is of my child.
So how often are our interactions with our children more about what is going on inside our own minds, rather than what is happening for them? To what extent are your reactions a reflection of your own deeply held ideas rather than an authentic response to the situation at hand?
When I look at my daughter’s needs (for distraction and amusement) and capabilities (a child of an age where repetition is exciting, and who has little ability to restrain herself) I discover that she is doing nothing wrong. It’s me who sees pathology in what is actually normality. Going through this momentary process of identifying that the ‘problem’ is with me not with her allows me the freedom to let her be a child. And it is a springboard toward seeing myself more clearly (a chance to take off my glasses and clean them, if you will) and an opportunity to practise extending compassion toward myself, not blame. My child is growing up every day, and so am I.