A little window into my life
The children were on holidays, and they had spent most of the day playing together. It hadn’t been easy. My son can be a difficult person to relate to sometimes: he becomes very demanding, wanting everything to be done his way and everyone to respond to his requests immediately. He finds it hard to be flexible or to take responsibility for anything that goes wrong. My daughter tends to go along with his requests, just for the sake of peace.
I had been busy around the house, hearing him raise his tone of voice and become snappy, accusative and demanding, then calm down again. Every time, my stomach would tighten and my breath become shallow, I would wonder if I needed to stop what I was doing and help them… then, as peace seemed to return, I would let it go and go back to what I was doing.
What I didn’t realise is that me not stepping in to set Loving Limits was part of an unresourceful pattern of mine. She tends to go along with his requests because she has seen me do the same: at times when my son has been disrespectful I often would just ignore it, try to forgive him and see the pain that made him react in such a way. But in doing so I would ignore my own hurt, and the fact that he had done something unloving. That was not useful to him. I want him to learn to respect others, and I wasn’t setting a good example when I wasn’t respecting myself in those interactions.
The evening came and they got together in the shower. Tension, sharp words and tone of voice mounted. Right next door, I was trying to quickly get something done on the computer before they finished, but I just couldn’t focus. In the end, I stormed into the bathroom and shouted: ‘Right, one of you is going to the upstairs shower! Now!!’ I turned off the water: ‘No water running while we decide who is going’. What followed was very painful for everyone, as you can imagine. It got worse by the second until my son threw the shampoo bottle and hit my head. I totally lost it and slapped him.
I took myself away. I cried and cried for my daughter’s pain, my son’s pain and my own, and for the fact that I din’t know how to make it better. I cried out the tension of a whole day hearing abuse and not doing anything about it. My Inner Loving Father (ILF) came and held me tenderly. I have barely hit my children in their lives, but whenever I have, I’ve felt awful and guilty. Yet, this time, my ILF told me lovingly: ‘You did the best you could. He shouldn’t have thrown the bottle at you’. Having such loving compassion offered, I cried again, hard, for all the times my own boundaries have been stepped over, for the many times I have not been able to protect myself. I could see how those instances, years and years of them, had fed my anger. And feeling confused as to how to set Loving Limits had contributed to me dumping my anger and slapping my son, rather than finding a positive solution. But there was a peace under my grief to which I came quite quickly. I sensed I had been forgiven, so it was easier to move on.
My next thought was: ‘I don’t want to do that EVER again. If allowing him to step over my boundaries results in situations like this, I will not allow it again, not even the slightest transgression.’ That felt powerful, solid and peaceful. It felt like an effective and loving way to protect myself from his anger and him from mine. I sensed my Inner Loving Father right next to me, encouraging and supportive. I returned to my children.
Reconnecting with my daughter took only a few seconds. With my son took almost and hour. I would get as close as he would let me, offer compassion and love. After a while he would invariably get tense and start blaming me for all that had happened with a harsh voice. I would gently get up and move away, saying: “I don’t want you to talk to me like this, my love”. After a while I would come back, but stay only an long as he was being kind. It seemed like eventually the message sank in, and from then on I went from one surprise to the next.
The first surprise was the speed of his “recovery”: within minutes of accepting a cuddle, he was laughing and playful like nothing had happened! Usually after difficult interactions he stays sombre for quite a while, and this was definitely up among the most difficult moments there has ever been between us; yet, he was so obviously over it! I was amazed.
The second surprise was that very soon after that initial cuddle, he hugged me and said sorry. My jaw dropped. He seldom admits there is any reason for him to apologise. But that day he obviously saw one, and took action quickly and without prompting. Wow!
The third surprise was that he didn’t say anything to daddy. When I “misbehave”, as soon as my husband walks in the door, he will run to him and tell him exactly how there was nothing he could do and I was to blame for everything. That day he was more cheerful and fun after the incident than during the whole day before it and, when my husband came home, that is all he saw: a happy son.
The fourth surprise was how affectionate and loving he was that evening, with all of us. That is definitely a trait of his, but I have never seen it just after a painful interaction like we had just had. Something meaningful happened that day, and it was blatantly obvious from the moment I reconnected with him.