I was teaching my Dad's class this week and was touched by their level of honesty and vulnerability. One of the dads shared that he wasn't sure what he felt nor what his reaction was to trying out the new awareness tools.
This experience was so different to what I saw growing up. My dad always knew. He always had the answer, the right answer. He knew the best way to do everything. The best way to pack the car, to drive somewhere, to rig the sailboat, to load the dishwasher... So how did I respond to cope with that? I developed a PhD Persona. When I spoke about pinkeye, I had a PhD in ophthalmology. A PhD in horticulture when I talked about gardening. A degree in computer science whenever I said something related to the computer. I had to know the right answers. I needed to be competent in all things. I was forever trying to impress and stand out to him. To show him that I can have the right answer too. Why did I do that? I wanted my dad to notice me, I wanted my dad's approval. "Dad, see me, see me," my actions pleaded.
If we are unconsciously spending all our energy being right and knowing the answer, then we can't see what others can bring. We don't have the awareness to see what is unfolding.
If I am telling my kids the best way to do something, I won't have the curiosity to see what my children have to offer or how they see the world. I won't see my children's 'right' when I am so busy being right myself. Plus I'll miss finding common ground when I am focused on delivering the answer to them.
It is especially hard as our culture cultivates this 'be right' mindset which makes it more difficult to not judge and trust that there are many different ways to arrive at a good result. This is reinforced by our culture's obsession to be 1st, to get A's, find the 'right' answer, and get into the 'right' college.
Children are yearning to be seen and heard by their parents. To show what they can do. To be accepted as they are. To be their unique selves. By telling them the answer we are dampening their spirits. It is less messy for us, it is good for our ego, but we are diminishing their self-worth.
Another reason we try to be 'right' and tell our kids what to do is that is that it feels uncomfortable and overwhelming to feel unsure and vulnerable. Uncertain. To hang out in, 'I don't know' or 'unsure of what may happen'. So we have spent years avoiding these hard and uncomfortable feelings, repressing them, distracting from them, protecting ourselves from them.
And that is why parenting is the hardest job on earth: our children send us back to feel those feelings again and again. What do I do when my kids fight and are mean to each other? How should I respond when my 3 year old plays with poop? What about when they don't cooperate after I've done everything for them?!?
The paradox: where there is vulnerability and uncertainty; there is connection. When we meet each other in a place of open curiosity, when we see without the agenda of what 'should be' or what 'you should do'; we can find connection and understanding.
It is refreshing to hear other adults be uncertain, to show they are imperfect and real, to not pretend otherwise. What a waste to spend my time and energy showing off and being 'right'. I want to model being more vulnerable for my kids.
Being uncomfortable is worth the cost to connect with my child and build their self-worth.
To learn more about the Five Pillars to Understand, Notice, Name and Change Reaction into Connection, sign up here: allison@theHeartGym.org