Song Dedication: Cruel by (obviously) Head and the Heart
So have you ever had an experience with another human where they are just so completely oppositional that they are willing to contradict their own stance on something just to be contrary – like within a minute time frame? No? Just me? Ya right people…how about you yourself, have you done this to yourself just to satisfy some masochistic need to suffer in the face of perception…I think this is called playing the martyr.
Oof! That came off blamey and pissy didn’t it?! I was meaning for it to be funny. Sorry, sometimes my comedic prowess is more like a deficiency.
Let me re-enter the subject matter for today with a little story.
So, this one time on a Wednesday night at around 7 pm, a little 7-year-old boy was feeling down in the dumps…he called it feeling grey…I like that…the equivalent to meh. So this grey feeling was causing him to say things he didn’t really mean because when he said to his Mom, “…so you want my brain to shrivel up and die?!” which was in response to her explaining for the umpteenth time that if he doesn’t drink enough water during the day, he becomes dehydrated and our brains don’t work as well without water. In which Mom responded with a gentle smile and said, “No honey, I don’t want you to die and your brain to shrivel up…I want the opposite, which is why I would like you to drink more water.” Also noting the flaking skin curling from his parched lips. Not the first time this conversation has been performed, btw.
The little boy concedes and says, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…I will drink my water tomorrow”
Mom says, “You don’t need to apologize just change your thinking on this please.”
When it was time to prepare for bed, he leaves the kitchen proceeding down the hallway to PJ up, brush teeth and pee, again returning to the living room. Upon his return he wants to talk about getting “punched in the face” (again). Now this sounds concerning, I know! But rewind to 3:00 that day with the original version of the story which went as follows. “Mom, I got punched in the face today and it hurt. But I told him I didn’t like it and I moved away. And I knew that he was stretching and did it on accident so I let it go. He said he didn’t do it and thought I was gonna tell on him but I didn’t.” Mom listens and responds accordingly, “It sounds like that hurt but great job handling it yourself and letting it go.” (Success! Internal fist pump even.) Until…fast forward to 7:15 pm with dehydrated, shrivelled up, tired brain, “…I just can’t believe I got punched in the face today! I don’t want to go to school. It’s too hard and no fun.” Sitting down hard on the floor poof with arms crossed.
And this is where I paused before I chose an action. I had to, because instinctually I wanted to roll my eyes, correct his revised version of events and tell him to stop being a victim. But I stopped myself with a deep breath to decide differently. Choice B found me moving away from the kitchen counter where I was making his lunch for the next day and taking a cross-legged seat on the ground directly in front of his grey-feeling body. He seemed caught off guard unlacing his arms to rest at his sides. I reached out my hands taking his into my palms. Still not saying anything, using only body language I leaned my torso toward him, ready to lull him into a hug. (At which point, I had planned to give him a tiny speech after…using the good ole’ Whole-child parenting technique of “connect then redirect.)
But what happened next was what inspired this write today.
He, sensing the safety and acceptance of the moment, also leaned in, but rather than doing so in a slow controlled way, he careened his 8 pound skull with a mismatched fervency to my gentle advance straight into my face which happened to be wearing glasses. (And if you’ve ever hit your face while wearing glasses, it like being punched in the gut vs. being punched in the balls, and if someone else hits you in the face it’s more like a kick to the nuts). Not good. Not good at all. (And no, I don’t have testicles but I was going for impact and that is the analogy that I felt best suited the situation…maybe I should have said lady-balls…actually, I’m good…no more testicular references for today, probably.)
There I was trying my best parenting tricks and mustering all the Eckhart Tolle presence I could find at 7:30 on a Wednesday night, with a dirty kitchen still waiting to be cleaned, an unfinished lunch to complete, and the song and dance of bedtime to still execute, and I was violently head butted while attempting a peaceful intervention! WTF.
So here is what interests me most about what happened next. It’s interesting because a year ago as a parent, if I was even present enough to be able to trouble shoot and do bedtime with our son, I likely would have blown a gasket at this point, creating a fear response in him and giving me a misaligned sense of power. Instead, I sat there saying nothing. My hand went to my face to remove my crooked glasses, and I held my head in my hand for a moment with closed eyes and then reminded myself to breathe deeply. After about 4 of these cleansing breaths, I opened my eyes and looked at my son with a steady gaze. I wasn’t sure what to say or how to proceed and then the words found me. Simply asking him, “Why did you do that?”
His eyes, met mine, now brimming with tears and he simply responded with, “I don’t know. I’m so sorry!”
“Where you wanting to hurt me?”
“No Mom, I didn’t mean to do that.” Tears rolling down his cheeks.
Suddenly I realized tears were also materializing on my own face and dropping into my lap.
I said, “Ok. I think we need to take a few deep breaths together and then get bedtime going.”
So we did.
Rather than occupy the place where my son had physically assaulted me with a 2006 World Cup Championship head butt, we vacated the scene of the crime allowing an energy shift, where communication came a bit more freely. Once in his bedroom he sat on his bed under his blankets and I perched myself on the lower 3/4 section of the bed, positioning myself free from any other pain body mishaps.
At this point I was mindful not to overwhelm him with a bunch of psychobabble about respecting others space and do no harm discourse. I was really feeling that all the hostile words and actions were mainly a result of his exhaustion. Some might feel otherwise, and so may react so otherwise, but with my kid I felt like treating him like any other human being was what was fair and just. And when I say this I mean, treating someone like a human means allowances for when we are not at our very best…which is often. When I’m tired, my patience and compassion can be testy. So for a seven year old, his behaviour, although unacceptable, was still understandable.
I told him I wanted to talk about what happened briefly and if he could remember only one thing I was going to say it was this,
I love you NO MATTER WHAT. You are my son. If you head butted me 1000 times, I would still love you. I wouldn’t like this of course, but I would love you no less.
When I said this, I felt it in my whole body and it inspired tears, not from sadness, but of joy. I love him so much that nothing he could ever do would change that fact. It was my truth and I don’t believe he had ever witnessed such a vulnerable display of love, because he too got misty eyed and smiled at me. He climbed into my lap to be held (without painstaking incident this time) and I kissed his cheeks and told him how lucky I was to have him in my life. He giggled and squirmed free back under his covers. We read a chapter of the Wizard of Oz and he smiled contentedly as I turned off the side table lamp and tucked him in tight.
And then he said, “Mom, I love you no matter what.”
Once I was able to get out of my head and the thinking rational incessant static, I was able to access a deep compassion of non-reactivity that allowed me space to be aware of what was truly necessary in that moment. I was eventually able to find the stillness within to be present to what my son needed from me, and ultimately what I needed from myself – compassion and grace. This moment empowered me more than any war tactic to establish my dominance – thus losing the battle in the end. I am not perfect. I am still learning. I am humbled by the enlightenment of a seven-year-old. I am grateful to have found my heart, in spite of my head.
After he woke this morning, with a high quality sleep in his reserve, he jumped into my bed at 6:45 am to snuggle and gently met my forehead with his. He paused there for a moment, smiling. When he pulled back he said, “This is what I was trying to do last night.” I smiled back and said, “I know.”
And look! I made it to the end without another mention of balls. oops.