When I began applying Aware Parenting in my life, I was deeply inspired by concepts like healing through tears, creating emotional safety for the kids and Loving Limits. Yet, I struggled to apply them in our daily lives. I tried from every angle, but the reality was that I needed to do a lot of healing inside to be able to reach a place where I could live these concepts in my heart as well as hold them in my head. As time went by I saw encouraging signs that things were improving, both in me and my children. But last night I could have celebrated with bubbles. Here is what happened:
My daughter asked for a liquorice pill (which is like a lolly for them) before bed. I said that wasn’t a good idea because they are sweet and she had already brushed her teeth. The way she insisted made me realise she was looking for help to release uncomfortable feelings. I held a Loving Limit. She tried to grab the box from me. I had to remind myself that I didn’t really mind if she did have one, but I was clear I wanted to be really compassionate and present to the feelings that were surfacing. That helped me detach from the outcome, make sure I wasn’t fighting but being really, really loving. And I managed! We did the Aware Parenting dance, shifting from laughing game to frustrating struggle, for about 20 minutes. And she had several good cries! I couldn’t believe it: it was the first time in months that she had a release in such simple, flowing, “Aware Parenting-by-the-book” way!! It was beautiful.
Eventually we got into bed and she began asking for all sorts of things, like an ice block for her hot teary face. I saw she wasn’t finished releasing. I kept holding Loving Limits with a lot of tenderness. When she realised I wasn’t going to give in, she got cross and grumbled:
‘Are you saying “no” because of some Aware Parenting idea?’
I couldn’t help laughing: ‘Yes; but mostly because it feels right in my heart’
‘I just want an ice block so that I can stop crying!’ she wailed. ‘I am so tired! And I have a head ache from all the crying! My eyes sting!’
There was a certain beauty in the confirmation of the “broken cookie concept”: anything I say ‘yes’ to will help her bottle in her feelings. She soon calmed down, but I was happy to have managed to help her have a release. And I was somewhat touched by the fact that she was aware of what was happening underneath the surface, even though some part of her resisted it. May we keep on making progress.
Afterthought, March 2016. I wrote this seven months ago and, re-reading it, I notice something very interesting of which I wan’t aware back then: the fact that I didn’t respect my daughter’s choice of when to stop the release. To start with, during our Aware Parenting dance, she was obviously ready to go into her uncomfortable feelings because she had several cries. But when we got into bed, she had had enough.
It is very intense to release uncomfortable feelings, very tiring. She wanted help to stop, and I didn’t see that. The result was that, instead of further releasing healing tears, she got angry at me for pushing her and she shut down.
It is our choice as human beings when to go into our pain, and when we’ve really had enough (whether we are in a counselling session or telling a trusted friend our troubles), we just stop and no amount of pushing will keep us going. It is the same with our children. Sometimes, as learning Aware Parents, we focus on getting our kids to release their bottled up feelings without realising that, ultimately, it is their choice to do so! Our job is just to provide the right medium for it. It has taken me a while to understand this. Now I am more sensitive around my children’s choices. Back then, my daughter had a lovely release, but she went to sleep feeling pushed and resentful because I didn’t see her desire to stop. Striking the right balance is such a subtle task! Looking back, I am happy to say that we are definitely making progress.
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