Picture it. A four year old boy’s bedroom. 7.20pm. He is screaming and crying on floor. His mother sits near him on the floor. She is speaking to him in a soothing voice in an attempt to calm him. “Noooooooo! I WANT DADDY!! GO AWAY!!!” he screams. “Let me help you calm down and then we’ll go to daddy together,” she says. The boy lunges at her, screaming. He claws at her face and arms, pulls her hair, punches and hits her. She lets it happen as the tears steam down her face. Somewhere in her body she remembers feeling the way she feels right now but she cannot remember when or why.
That was the scene in our house last night. Max started school a few weeks ago and, since then, his aggressive tantrums have dominated the evening routine. Although I could just as easily write a post about parenting practices and some of the things we’re finding helpful or unhelpful, I have chosen to write about the stories we tell ourselves because mine are having a profound effect on my ability to manage myself through this.
“He’s not going to respond. There’s nothing I can do.” That was the story in my head last night.
When I’m able to calm him, the story is completely different. In those times, I’m thinking, “I can show him he is safe. I am strong and patient. I can help him.”
Of course it’s easy to see how these thoughts would change how I behave in the moment but what’s less obvious is how everything preceding these moments determines which story makes it into consciousness. The stories we tell ourselves in the big moments are determined by the things we do in the small moments.
Over the past few weeks I have done very little to bolster myself. I have stayed in bed later, exercised less, hardly written at all and barely given myself any reason to feel strong, capable or in control. If I’m going to sit around watching TV, drinking wine and eating sugar (I have been doing this more lately) then I’m not going to think or feel the same as I do when I meditate, do some yoga and write.
I don’t trust myself the same way and I certainly don’t see myself as the perfect person to help my son manage his roaring, searing fears.
Today I bring myself back to the keyboard and reclaim my stronger self, not just because my son is in desperate need of her but because I am. It’s time to change the story.