I recently attended the Hand in Hand Weekend Retreat and wanted to report on what happened upon my return home.
The retreat was wonderful. I was surrounded by beautiful redwoods, had fabulous meals prepared for me, and got a much needed break from full time mommyhood.
I got to spend time with other parents who are using the Parenting by Connection approach, got lots of listening time, unloaded a lot of built up tension, and spent a lot of time focusing on the goals I have for myself and my family. In short, my emotional bank account got filled up and I came home in great shape.
And my kids could tell.
I came home after bedtime on Sunday night. In my mind I planned to spend a good part of Monday hanging out and playing with my two children.
I had checked in with my husband the night before and knew that they had had a good weekend. I have found that when I have abundant extra attention my kids know it. And their emotional systems know how to make good use of it. It’s like all these little nagging hurts that are lodged in there get a chance to bubble to the surface saying, ‘Hey, over here! Look at me! I need some help over here. I’ve been waiting for someone to show up.’ So first thing in the morning… here comes ‘their stuff’ but only more amped up because I have all this good extra attention floating around. They could probably smell it the minute they woke up.
The younger one woke up, snuggled me for a few minutes, then immediately started whining about being awake. The older one came in and after just about 10 minutes of chatting started finding reasons to hit his brother. The younger one didn’t want to eat, etc. Your garden variety of ‘nothing is quite right’. And the older one continued to find ways to initiate conflict with his brother.
The great thing was that I was completely prepared and able to welcome this with an open heart and clear mind, because I had been listened to so well in partnerships over the weekend.
I started with some playlistening, climbing back in bed and pulling the blanket over our heads, begging not to have to get up. Then I begged them not to get up as they laughed and tried to squirm away from me. After 20 minutes or so of that game and lots of laughing, the older one started back on hitting and teasing of his brother and I was able to set some firm, yet playful, and connected limits. This led to some staylistening, as he cried and sweated and told me what a rotten brother he had. Just as he was beginning to wind down, the younger one started to do some of his own “Notice me! Notice me!” behavior, very disconnected, wild in nature, and I was able to playfully get him to reconnect.
After that they seemed like they were in pretty good shape, so I left the room to get breakfast started. They began to wrestle, which quickly became too rough from the sound of things, so I headed back in. I grabbed some pillows and began to get in on the ‘fight’. They both said, “No mom, you’re not rough enough!” I could see that they really wanted to exert themselves, but were still not connected enough to know the limit, so that the younger one wouldn’t get hurt.
So I said, “Oh you think I’m not rough enough, huh? How ‘bout this!” And made a HUGE swing at the older one with a pillow and completely missed, falling flat on my face on the bed. They then pounced on me and we had a great vigorous pillow fight with them ganging up on me and me being the buffoon. I was able to let them go at me really hard without getting upset. They were able to get lots of energy out, and lots of laughter and connection. And lots of brotherly teamwork.
We laughed and laughed for over an hour. And they played really well together for the rest of the day and several days afterwards.
Because my bucket was so full, I was able to be really present and relaxed with them. What a difference it makes! I could come up with fresh ideas, I had patience, I had play stamina. We all benefited, not just them. It really is true; the oxygen mask works best when applied to the caregiver first.
-Join Certified Instructor Kirsten Nottleson in her Building Emotional Understanding course. Starts March 27. Register now.