A friend from out of town visited over the weekend. Not someone we see often since it’s a long plane ride between us. So our kids don’t really know him even though we have been friends a long time. Since college long-time. I won’t tell you how many years that has been so not to age myself. Since business overlaps for us, we had him come help us with a few things for an extended weekend.
We have a handful of kids who all do sports, so he came along for nearly everything and business took place in the car on the ride to and from, during practices, during games and after the kids went to bed. He graciously did life with us and our kids for nearly 4 days.
After dinner Sunday, suitcase packed, Uber driver called, we hugged goodbye, watched him get into the car, and off he went to the airport. We’ll see him in person again someday, I’m sure of it. But I don’t know when.
I saw my daughter hug him. Not unusual since she tends to hug indiscriminately anyway. Something we’ve been working on. Right after we walked back inside, I saw the glare in her eyes as she plopped down on the coffee table. I saw the pursed lips. The look that says, “I’m mad! I hate you! You have made my life miserable!” And then rage follows.
I sat down beside her and gave her close eye contact. Instead of asking, “What’s wrong?” which is what I usually ask, I asked, “Do you want to tell me why you are upset?” She thought about it. And then shook her head yes. I proceeded to give her the words, because they really are too hard for her to come up with on her own.
“You’re upset because Mr. Dan left?” Her head said yes and she cried big, sad tears and exclaimed, “I miss him!”
Although he was involved with my kids for the weekend, the sadness was not because they formed a fast bond or made memories together over the few days. The sadness was because the coming and going of people is very hard for her and brings up her loss from long ago.
People have come and gone in her life. Lots of people. Important people. And they never came back. And she knows she’ll never see them again. So when it keeps happening with other people, it’s just hard to process. The trauma from long ago rears it’s head, and the big emotions come. And the only way she’s been able to deal with them is through anger.
I held her. I didn’t say much, other than, “I’m sorry.” We just hugged. I wiped the tears away and then helped her get ready for bed. And she was fine.
Crisis/rage/tantrum/mean words averted.
I wonder how many other times, if I had just been more in tune with my daughter, more aware of her environment, more observing of the situation beforehand…how many other days could have turned out differently?
How many times has it really just all boiled down to her broken heart and my ego?
Truth be told, her reaction is many times my fault. It just is. Not hers. Because she can’t. I can as the adult. I am the catalyst to these situations sometimes. We do need to take the time to observe their environment longer, monitor our mouth, our actions, and humble ourselves to see their broken hearts and not the behavior. And in order to not see the behavior, our ego has got to go.
I was recently told by our therapist that I just need to be successful 70% of the time in my parenting. I have no idea where that number came from. Perhaps someone did some kind of study through the generations on good parenting vs. bad parenting and the outcome of the two. I actually did a quick search to find it, but it came up empty. She said it so I would give myself some grace. Because it seems my percentiles are flip flopped on many days. At least the 30% is way more memorable for everyone involved.
The point she was trying to make I guess is that we as parents don’t need to beat ourselves up over the 30%. Thirty percent happens. And whatever percentage we are currently batting at in our parenting, just ONE successful engagement with big emotions goes a long way.