Yesterday I had a new friend over with her 3 daughters. My 9-year-old daughter, Maeve, was feeling shy, and we had already had a bumpy weekend, including a cancelled trip that she very much wanted to go on.
After the girls made art for a while, we decided to go to the park and get a muffin on the way. The cafe was closed for a film shoot, however, and we went straight to the park. Maeve started asking over and over again whether she could just go ask the cafe owners to see if they could get something to eat anyway. She said she was hungry, but her tight, insistent tone sounded like it was not really about that. I told my friend that I had to take my daughter home to get her something to eat.
I was acutely embarrassed, and when we arrived home, I said all the things I know not to say. I told her she embarrassed me, and I said, “Can’t you just give me a little bit of time to do something I want to do?” She started crying, and I didn’t care. I was exhausted, and the last thing I wanted to do was repair anything or try to be close to her. She went upstairs, and I headed back to the park for a short while.
After my friend left, I emailed one of my listening partners and set up a time almost right away. I cried hard on the phone with her, which was a great relief. The thing that brought up the most crying was telling her that I didn’t want to have to fix anything, that I was tired of parenting, and that I wanted to quit. I told her that I hated that you can never quit it, never leave entirely, and never feel carefree again. I told her that I hated that I try so hard, and I still mess up so badly. It felt like too much work. The responsibility felt like too much. I told her how I hated being responsible for people’s LIVES! It was just so good to cry hard right when I needed to. She simply listened and made sympathetic noises. She hardly needed to do anything — she just heard me and didn’t judge. I felt some weight lift and I was more available to my kids for the rest of the day. I could probably have benefited from having even more time to cry, but I didn’t know how long Maeve would stay upstairs in her room.
When Maeve came down later, I asked her what would make her day better, and we planned sushi at home while watching TV. It gave us some space to hang out together and be close. Things were a little better. Later we did some Special Time, and I rubbed her back while she read.
I particularly noticed the difference the next morning, in a “cleansed” feeling and a renewed energy for parenting and everything else.
—Sandra Flear, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor
Join Sandra in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding online class starting April 23. Register now!
Listen to this 3-minute audio clip, in which Sandra describes how you can help your listening partner release emotions.