Parenting Help: Burn-out Can Be Lightened by Listening

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

Keiko Sato-Perry

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.

You can read more of Sandra’s stories here and learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet set.

Stupid F*(&#! Pillow!

My daughter, who is 7, had trouble separating at bedtime, and went through a period of crying every bedtime, without relief or change, when she wasn’t allowed to sleep in my bed. I let her cry each time, hoping it was doing some good, but it was always the same. One night, however, she was very mad and started punching and kicking me. I had just watched a Hand in Hand video on working with aggression, so I felt more clear about what to do. I met her aggression with warmth. I kissed her hands when she punched, deflected her kicks, and told her that I saw how angry she was.

After a good long while, she lay on the bed and told me about something that happened at gym that day. They did a parachute game, which she had never done before. It was familiar to all the other children at her new school, but she was confused about what to do, and felt scared when she was under the parachute. She said everyone loved the game, but she hated it.

She seemed to want to kick some more, so I encouraged her to kick a pillow I held and pretend it was the parachute. She did and she loved kicking it. She then turned to punching it down with a karate chop, over and over again. She then threw it back over her head and down the hall repeatedly, calling it a “Stupid, f___ f___ pillow!” “F___” is a word she has been a bit fascinated with, and it holds a lot of power for her. She also threw it down the stairs and said she hoped it hurt. I thought it would go on forever, but I let her keep going because she seemed to be getting so much out of it.

After a while longer, it was getting late for a school night bedtime, and I suggested she could do some more another time. She seemed satisfied with that, and went to bed without crying. She hasn’t cried since when she can’t sleep in my bed, though she still doesn’t like it, and it still holds some fear for her. The difference before and after this listening time is remarkable though, and I was surprised and happy that one listening time had such a big impact.

Sandra Flear, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor

Keiko Sato-PerryYou can join Sandra in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding online class starting June 4. Learn more >

Listening Time Clears My Mind

I was going through a particularly stressful time. I wasn’t sleeping well, and often felt impatient with my kids, and not available enough for them. I had a consultation with a Hand in Hand consultant: in it, she helped me connect back to a memory of time when I felt very afraid as a child. Later that evening, I had a huge cry and rage in the car on the way to the gym. I felt cleaned out after that, and I was more available for my daughter the next morning than I had been in a long time. My daughter was having a hard time that day, but I felt calm and peaceful, able to listen and help her, and she was able to feel better, too.

Sandra Flear, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor

Keiko Sato-Perry

Join Sandra in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding online class starting April 9.  Register now!

Listen to this 3-minute audio clip, in which Sandra describes how you can help your listening partner release emotions.

You can read more of Sandra’s stories here and learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet set.

Talking While Pillow Fighting

My 11-year-old son usually wants to pillow fight or sword fight during his special times with me. He told me recently, “I like it when we talk, too,” which is just what happens. As we wrestle and play and have fun, he tells me what’s going on at school, with his friends, and whatever is on his mind, in a way that he doesn’t often do otherwise. The physical play and connection seems to loosen him up.

Sandra Flear, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor

Keiko Sato-Perry

Join Sandra in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding online class starting April 9.  Register now!

Listen to this 3-minute audio clip, in which Sandra describes how you can help your listening partner release emotions.

You can read more of Sandra’s stories here and learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet set.

Not Liking Her Father’s New Partner

I told my daughter that another parent from her school would be taking her into school that day because we carpool. She was upset and cranky about it for 45 minutes, and wanted me to take her instead. I held the limit and told her that the other parent would take her in that day and I would take her in tomorrow. A few minutes before the other parent arrived, she started crying, and told me how upset she is about having a “stepmother.”

She cried and said she never wanted her dad and I to separate, she never wanted a stepmom, that she’s never liked her, and she wants to live just with her dad and brother again at her dad’s house. I’d never heard these feelings before, and didn’t even know she had them. I share my feelings about this with a listening partner, which helps me to support my children’s dad when he has feelings about our daughter not liking his partner. All of this opened up a conversation between my daughter and her dad about why we separated, and how she feels about his new partner. She seems more settled about it now.

Sandra Flear, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor

Keiko Sato-Perry

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.

You can read more of Sandra’s stories here and learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet set.