Growing up, my parents raged at each other — and us. It set a precedent for not understanding anger or how to deal with it from an early age, so that the only thing I thought about being upset was that it was dangerous to feel that way or be around that energy. As I grew into adulthood and embarked on relationships, I realized that instead of getting “angry,” I’d simply get “sad” which seemed like a safer way to feel.
Recently, my almost four-year-old daughter has been really testing limits. It’s a natural phase of development, her wanting her own independence, and as we’re navigating a lot of change with an upcoming divorce from my husband and temporarily living in a new locale with new people, it’s understandable she might feel overwhelmed. Unfortunately, my ability to be compassionate is somewhat limited to my ability to be compassionate with myself: I’ve always been told I’m too hard on myself and I can see now how I can be too hard on her, becoming a tiger mom when what she really needs is more love.
Last night, she once again decided that she didn’t want to go to bed. She was having too much fun. The disruption in sleep routine is another reason she’s having a hard time tempering her normally calm demeanor. After a 15-minute back-and-forth struggle, we were finally able to get into bed, side-by-side.
I asked her, “What is that you really need?”
Her response? “Compassion, love, and empathy.”
I was astounded.
“What does compassion mean for you?”
“It means love, kindness, kisses, and putting it all in my backpack,” she smiled at me.
Mothering a willful child helps me to deal with aspects of myself that I’ve shoved behind the veil of maturity and more practiced meditation. I’m learning that in the heat of the moment, if I can’t get myself in check, then I can do damage that may not show on the surface right now, but could very well lead her to a therapy room one day, sharing how her mother scarred her the same way I’ve sat in front of a therapist to say the same about my own tiger mother.
Given that anger isn’t something I’m accustomed to dealing with — how do I handle it better with my daughter now?