It was the last day of school last year and we had a gift for someone at the school which my son was supposed to have given the day before but – even though he’d seen the person – he’d forgotten to give the gift. So now it was down to the wire and we needed to give it before school ended.
Before school we agreed that we would go find this lovely guy and give him the gift. In the morning we got to school and I said, “Ok quick, let’s go give him the gift.” My son looks at me confused and says, “I don’t want to do it now.”
“But we agreed! Let’s quickly go and do it.” I said impatiently.
“I don’t want to do it now. I want to play.” He says planting his feet on the ground.
I say – none too gently, “We need to give him the gift. If we get it done quickly you can still have time to play. Come on!”
“I don’t want to do it now.” He’s starting to get an edge of whine in his tone. There’s pressure on him.
“But we agreed!” I huff indignantly.
“I thought you meant after school.”
Dawning realisation that there is reason to his resistance. How inconvenient for me. I change tack in my mission to make him do it the way that will suit me best.
“Oh, we had a misunderstanding? Ok I see. But now let’s just go do it now and get it done with.” I’m putting heavy pressure on him, trying to make him do what I want.
“I don’t want to.”
Aaaargh! He’s not going my way!!!
I feel pressure, I know this needs to get done but there is my child simply not wanting to do it. It’s a moment of sheer powerlessness for me. This person is blocking me from my next move.
I don’t know about you but this is the moment I lose it sometimes. Apparently powerlessness still gets me. I’m working on it. It may be a while…
That morning I teetered on the edge. I was tempted to physically drag him off to do it, I think I even took his arm and half-heartedly tugged a little but the other people around made me more aware of myself – all the better to see me reeeaally trying to push this thing, my dear.
My rational mind chattered to me all the while I was trying to convince him to do it my way. “Easy there Tiger!” it told the part of me that was fending off how powerless this was making me feel, “It was a misunderstanding. He didn’t agree to this. He really doesn’t want to. You can’t make another person do something they simply don’t want to. You don’t want to do that.”
My skinny little guy stood there, looking woeful, starting to take heavy strain from the pressure I was putting on him, bottom lip threatening to tremble, yet speaking quietly, telling his truth and standing his ground.
Finally I gave up in disgust, “Fine we’ll do it when you thought we were going to but I wish we had just done it now.” No points for grace. I said a huffy (but loving) goodbye and strode off grumpily. Not one of my finer moments I admit but something SO good came from it. Listen. Not even one minute later, as I was still stromping off, I became aware that this small child had withstood some hard-core pressure to conform and HE DID NOT GIVE IN.
All of a sudden I had a huge woosh of pride and admiration for him and his inner strength – admiration that he could withstand me in all my clever manipulations. Then immediately following that realisation I had a rush of joy that something in my parenting has allowed him his strength and nurtured the permission to tap into it to protect himself – even from his mother. Somehow he knows that it’s ok to trust himself and stand his ground even when it might displease someone – even when that someone is the person he loves most in all the world.
Well! I walked off SO happy. I really did. I was ecstatic that my child had defied me like that. So proud of him and so reassured for his future.
Because this is what I want for myself isn’t it? I am striving to listen to myself above all external pressures and expectations. This is the very thing I keep encouraging all of you to do too. LISTEN TO YOURSELF I keep saying. Don’t override what you know to be your truth in the effort to please someone else.
Well there we are. My child has learned to do this – maybe in part from me – and now I will watch him and take lessons on how it looks in action! Hooray!
Aaaah thank you. Currently experiencing the powerlessness and frustration my 4 yr old is exposing me too. Thank you for highlighting there is a positive spin. Yes ,can so relate to the feeling that “I’m gonna lose it” and the restraint needed, grrrr.
Oh hang in there my friend! You are doing great. Really, think about the alternative. A four year old who is meek and mild due to horrible reactions aimed at breaking her spirit. I’m sure you have met some of those? So CELEBRATE your willful child. It’s a testament to her spirit (which will take her to wonderful places) and to your giving her space to be herself and honouring her. Imagine if we had all been allowed that space? What sort a magical world this would be…
When she does that not listening and defying thing, besides calming down all the fears in yourself (you can do it!) also gaze at her with admiration and take notes on how to do that for the next time you are in a tricky business meeting, or an irritating parent or facing an offensive person! THEN you’ll thank her for your training.
What do you think?