I'd had it.
I'd reached my limit.
The angry yell erupted from my throat before I'd even had time to consider its value. Being told "No." by my 8-yr old for the third time in a row - after the calm voice, the rationalization, the peaceful negotiation - it was too much.
Most parents are probably nodding their heads in recognition right now.
Needless to say, yelling wasn't the answer. He did what he was told, but continued to get more and more angry. In return, so did I. It is a very vicious and predictable cycle.
Allow me to note this before I go any further: This isn't a post about parenting techniques. I'm not looking for input as to whether or not I did the right thing or some suggestions on how to handle this in the future.
This is about what happened next.
I sat down on our green couch where I often go to journal or just to look out the window at the trees that loom over our street. I was there less than a minute, when I popped back up and headed towards my son's room.
I walked in, knelt down by him, and just gave him a hug. I could feel his body tense in anger and could hear my own thoughts, this room STILL isn't clean! Oh wow - did he really throw that over there?. But I kept hugging.
For both of us.
Slowly his body melted into my arms. I kept thinking it was time to stop, that we should talk about this, that he needs to get back to cleaning. Instead, I kept hugging. I would feel myself start to lean back, then think 5 more seconds. After those 5 seconds, I'd sunk back into the hug and didn't want to leave. I have no idea how long we were there.
When I finally did loosen my hug, he collapsed into his beanbag chair and said exhaustedly and calmly, I'm ANGRY. We had an even-tone conversation about what had happened. He went back to cleaning his room and I went back to the kitchen.
Our day went along on a much different path than it had been heading only 30 minutes before.
Again, I don't intend this post to be about parenting.
I intend for it to be a reminder, for all of us, of gentleness.
I want the hug to be the picture that pops in our head today when we are about to lose it (because that time is going to happen). I want us all to feel the fullness of breath that comes through gentleness...whether it is with others, or with our own thoughts.
And because I know firsthand how challenging it can be to do this practice, I want us all to hold those thoughts of gentleness, the smile, the hug ...with your child, your partner, your self.... for five more seconds than we think we can.
Because we all need it.
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