During that weekend, my five-year-old daughter was happy, radiant, friendly, spontaneously helping out clearing out the whole(!) table, simply wonderful and a true joy to be around.
Now she is testing boundaries, fighting me every step of the way (especially in the morning). She just wants to play (of course she does) and refuses to conform to my rules (which I do not even like myself). She is acting out and going into drama (which really drives me insane).
Me? I feel a lot of frustration. I feel contracted in mind and my body (tense shoulders, tight belly, buttocks all clenched up). I see myself acting out old familiar (fear based) patterns – feeling an almost compulsive need to control what she does, how she does it, what she eats. Feeling nauseous with myself and beating myself up for being that way (I am especially accomplished at that!).
I see that I become triggered especially when there’s time pressure of some kind (having to get to school on time). I hear this voice in my head: ‘We HAVE TO get to school on time, because otherwise…’ Yes? How exactly is the world going to end, if a 5-year-old child is 5 minutes late for school?
I get triggered when she is going into drama. I try to reason with her from my mind (which, of course does not work at all). I need to contain her emotional outbursts (because they feel unsafe to me). I have this idea that I to behave like an authority figure and set boundaries. But how do you set loving boundaries without acting old-school authoritarian?
Hmmm… I wonder if these experiences are linked somehow? (she said with sarcasm dripping from her voice). No seriously, although I have known at some levels (and in my mind) that children really reflect us back to ourselves, this time around the game has been taken to a whole new level. There’s no place to hide anymore (and believe me, I have been searching).
It is what it is: maybe the best thing I can do is simply to accept the facts as they are?
- I feel open and connected. Result: She feels open and connected.
- I feel closed and constricted. Result: She feels closed and constricted.
Mirror, mirror on the wall,
you are no different from me at all...
I may not want to stay,
but it is useless to turn away.
Even if I do not agree,
you are just another reflection of me.
Anger, sadness, joy and shame -
we might seem different, but are one and the same.
If I feel closed, I can relax as much as possible and open up again to whatever is, now, in this moment. I can actively remember that many of the voices I hear in my head are old behavioural programmes stemming from my own childhood (and generations before that). If my mind feels the need to control the situation and her drama (= my inner drama?), I can try to do the opposite: feel my body, relax, feel safe in myself and do my best to stay calm. And I can really work on that guilt thing I have going, be compassionate with myself and stop beating myself up when I get it ‘wrong’. How’s that for a start?
I would love to hear from you as well! What are your experiences with children as mirrors? What do you do to stay in a healthy mother / parent energy?