Some Saturdays back was one of the worst ever discipline and compliance disasters in my house. We were like a box of contact-trigger firecrackers being shaken hard. Boom, pop, bang, POW!
Each time one of us lost our control and our temper it would trigger the next one, then the next one and so on until all of us were shouting, wailing, howling… Like a domino line of crackers. Then we’d calm ourselves, pull ourselves together, apologise to the various parties and vibrate vulnerably until the next hair-trigger set us all off – boom, pop, bang, POW!
Like a slapstick comedy, we took turns to lose it first, and each time we popped in a different order. It would have been hilarious if I hadn’t been in it.
At one point, trying to calm things – again – I took the boys for a cycle outside. Then one of them blatantly disregarded a safety rule. “Sorry, you can’t cycle anymore. Back in the house you go.“ Shrieking objections but what can I do? He broke the rule. So in he went leaving his brother and I outside on our own, feeling anguished at leaving one of our party behind. We held out a while but I could hear high pitched, “Mamaaaaaaaa”s being shrieked from deep in the bowels of the house. I think even my heart’s bottom lip was trembling.
So we headed back in to give him a second chance and found him thrashing in his father’s arms – the most fantastically uncomfortable loving embrace I’ve ever witnessed.
As he ran off to get his bike my partner-in-disaster put his hands to his short-shaven head and said in bewilderment, “If I had hair I’d tear it out!” and we both giggled hysterically at the out-of-controllness of the day.
I mean HYSTERICALLY.
That was a good moment.
The funny thing is that I’d set my intention for the weekend to be fully present to the good moments. To focus on the joyful, calm, everything’s-ok moments and to absorb them deeply. And I did manage that too so, strangely, at the end of such a tumultuous day, the feelings of joyful richness equalled – or even outweighed – the dismal sense of spectacular failure.
Apparently the moments I managed full presence were really worth it.
I don’t know what would have happened if I’d managed to maintain full presence the rest of the day. I suspect it would have been a lot calmer and more joyful for us all. But – oh the irony – it was Saturday. I was tired. I wanted to have a weekend. I didn’t want to still have to cater for, entertain, consider, nurture, nourish and contain dependents.
I’ve been looking back on the day to try to understand what went on. I’d really like to avoid another bone-rattler. I have so many tools within myself for dealing with the fall-outs of being human. Why didn’t I apply them?
Well, my assessment tells me that I did apply them, but not whole-heartedly. I was present but only just. I was patient and kind and understanding – but only just. Actually I didn’t want, didn’t want, didn’t WANT to be doing this. I wanted to be doing something else.
Children – and life – do not accept half-hearted presence. I was being d r a g g e d into full presence and I was fighting it for all I was worth. That was the feeling of the day for me. Pulling away, resisting. And look how it turned out. Or rather don’t look – please. Ugh.
If I had stopped fighting what life was asking me to do, if I’d let go of how I wanted it to be, it might have been one of my most precious days ever. I’ve experienced that many times before. But I so wanted what I wanted and not what it was…
Maybe this’ll learn me. Maybe next time I’ll surrender sooner…