Being with what is… Parenting 101
Coming home from a festival, I had heard from my son’s friends that he had gone quiet and then suddenly left the scene without a word. When I asked them what happened they explained that they were dancing and suddenly he left the flow, grabbed his things and left the hall. His dance partner at the time said she wasn’t good at dancing and thought he might have become frustrated with her.
Next time I saw him there was no indication of any sort of lingering emotional rift. I asked him briefly about it and he said that he didn’t know what happened. It may be important to note that festivals are a kind of intense substrate that can cause all sorts of experiences to boil and erupt without much warning or explanation. So, I let it go and moved on.
When we arrived home and unpacked, we sat down to gain some better understanding of what happened. There was some kind of traumatic moment that I felt worthy of exploration. He wasn’t enthusiastic about the dialog at all. I asked him what happened inside himself when he chose to leave his partner on the dancefloor, grab his stuff, and leave the hall without a word to his friends. He was silent with downcast eyes. We sat there for what felt like an hour.
Finally, I asked what he was experiencing right now as I inquired about this event (trusting that he is emotionally awake and mentally aware). He remained silent. It appeared to me to be a tact of stubborn resistance, but I wouldn’t allow myself the luxury of that assumption. Something important felt like it was happening. Admittedly, I felt frustration and anger that my child wouldn’t talk openly with me. I was attempting to create a safe space where all things are welcome, yet he was appearing stubborn and I was taking it personally. This mix of assumptions and frustration exhausted me and I wanted to give up… joining him in the resistance. What I wanted for him was to return to that moment and name the experience but something blocked this from happening for him and here is the opportunity for authenticity.
Patiently, I asked him to tell me what he didn’t want to experience again. Head shakes in response, No! I asked again trying desperately to understand his worldview right now. I imagined the possibilities, tried each of them on as if I was him, allowed these thoughts and emotions to split my own emotions apart.
So, I set my personal needs aside and persisted in my inquiry with gentle persistent caring. Finally, a tiny crack appeared when he said: “I don’t want to say it because then I will have to experience it again.” He dropped his heads in his hands, forehead on the table and began to sob. Internally, I reminded myself to welcome this too. I moved to the chair next to him, asked if I could touch him, laid my hand on his arm and allowed this unnamed expression to wash over me. I allowed my own emotions and imagination to more fully fill my own awareness of the moment.
In front of me, my son is convulsing in tears and apparently attempting to hide from his own experience. What I did next isn’t easy to explain… but I am going to attempt anyway. I asked him to look me in the eyes and I said, “I imagine this experience must have been challenging and upsetting for you.” Nods and looks down. “Right now, I hear you don’t want to re-experience the thoughts and emotions.” Nods and looks up at me again. “I think I understand you right now at this moment, and I welcome the experience too. This is all I want… thank you.” Head down returns to sobbing.
Wave after wave, we sat there together crying and saying no more words.
(Much more to say on this topic… but I have to abandon it for now. I hope you will write to me with your own stories, thoughts, questions, and challenges. I am always interested in learning from others and continuing this pursuit of being more fully human TOGETHER!)