“Parenting is a mirror in which we get to see the best of ourselves, and the worst…” Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn
I think that a few weeks ago, I actually cracked the mirror! I saw the worst of myself as a parent and I crossed a line that I had thought would not be crossed.* Not hitting, not name-calling, but nonetheless, parenting I was not proud of. I lost my temper and I lost control. My emotions got the better of me. I totally overreacted – In the words of Dan Siegel, I “flipped my lid.” And this was on the heels of a time when I was feeling so pleased with how I handled a challenging moment (see previous blog post about taking the ‘Dis’ out of Discipline’). This time, I was not pleased. I felt awful. My son felt awful. It was just plain awful all round.
Remembering how parental perfection is not possible and the importance of repair, I immediately apologized to my son. No excuses, no reasons; just a heart-felt apology. However, I still felt bad. Really bad…
I noticed throughout the day, at work, on the subway, picking him up from school, making dinner, putting him to bed, that I still felt bad. “How could I have acted that way?” Over and over this question played in my mind, leading me to feel worse and be quite distracted – no longer present in the pleasant moments that followed with my son. My mind was still back at the incident that morning.
Fortunately, I was facilitating a mindfulness group the following day, with the theme of self-kindness and compassion – a lovingkindess practice was led by the co-facilitator. What a perfect opportunity to practice kindness, and when I needed it most – during this very challenging time. I imagined myself back in that moment and offered myself words of kindness. Reminding myself that I was experiencing a very difficult time; consequently more vulnerable to get swept up in a tsunami of intense emotions.
May I be happy and live with joy, May I be healthy and strong, May I be safe and protected, May I be at peace.
As I repeated these phrases over and over, with an intention of kindness and compassion towards myself, I felt the shame start to lift. I was able to remind myself of what I so often reminds others – I am human and I made a mistake. I will do better next time.
When I went home that day, I had lots of fun playing with my son. Beating myself up led to disconnection. Tenderness towards myself brought us closer… and felt a lot better too!
* I have decided not to share the details of the experience as people have different ideas of what they would or wouldn’t do and want to focus on responding to my experience of what happened, rather than entering a debate of whether or not it was “really that bad.”
Photo credit: Loving Earth