Have you ever noticed that the things that frustrate you the most in other people are the qualities you most struggle with yourself? Once seen, this unfortunately can’t be unseen and parenting, well, it’s like holding a massive mirror of all your faults up to you all the time.
The day began with such high hopes. In the waking haze of hope and promise I read a piece about ‘No Ultimatums Parenting‘ which sounded so blissful and calm. Apparently all the Danish parents have amazing children because they practice this respectful exchange between parent and child all the time. Somehow, they manage to hit this magical equilibrium between instilling strong boundaries and nurturing independence and empathy. (If you detect a hint of dripping sarcasm in my tone, I’m sure it is just self-projection…)
Let’s just say it didn’t go so well this morning. Eli suddenly (mis)remembered that Dave had broken his Lego tower yesterday and he was unable to detach emotionally from his searing resentment. No amount of John Milton quotes (“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven“) could dissuade him from his anger. We rebuilt one together and all seemed to be returning to a sense of calm… until Hudson parked his toy car on the wrong part of the tower and Eli lunged at him to seek vengeance… ironically toppling the structure in his haste. Still unable to own his own part in the destruction, he turned his rage onto us, which then sparked me off and we both ended up frustrated and seething.
I set myself up for it. I want to exude patience, calm, empathy and reason. The simmering core is something I scramble to cover and distance myself from. Avidly, I try to find new approaches and better methods for controlling my situation. And every time, it fails. I overreach, expect too much (from others and myself) and land flat on my face in a puddle of shame. Eli’s outbursts trigger a guilt reaction in me. ‘It is my fault that he is angry… I should have had more self-control, shown more patience, never lost it at anything’. To write it out shows the error in my whispered expectations, but the echo of this guilt in my mind is very convincing.
Christina Hubbard, a beautiful friend I have made through the Five Minute Friday community sent me a gift this week. Knowing my recent foray into the world of verse, ‘The Joy of Poetry: How to Keep, Save and Make Your Life with Poems‘ (Megan Willome) was the perfect choice. I’m losing myself in the pages, rediscovering concepts introduced in youth – Haiku, Sonnet… pain and exhilaration pinned down for a moment in the confines of letters. It’s as if a door I had always walked past has suddenly sprung open, beckoning me through with the heady scent of frangipani and sunshine. A worn couch I can sink deep into, uttering pain and confusion in a tongue that is fast becoming native to me. Tones that have echoed through past generations, now resurfacing through my pen.
A line from a poem entitled ‘New Year’s‘ by Dana Gioia has captured me. “The present is/The leaky palm of water that we skim/From the swift, silent river slipping by“. What a beautiful and haunting image. I’m realising more and more that mindfulness and attentiveness are the crucial link to discovering ‘heaven’ now. The difficulty is when we want to be anywhere but the moment we are currently in…
The Art of Suffocation
Balled deep, under layers and shadows
Flaming fury, unquenched
Moments of regret
loom into a billow
Poisoning the air with the fumes
Glimmers and memories formed
shrivel under the weight of the
Admonishments from youthful mouths
only add noxious vapour
I toil, trapped in the unrelenting
gasp of Time
Wishing to be anywhere else
except caught in my own
It would be kind of depressing to end there, though it would be remiss of me to pretend that everything has returned to some sort of equilibrium. Dave has taken the kids to see Optimus Prime and the silent ticking of the clock is the only company that remains. Space to process and write is a crucial thing for me after moments of woundedness.
At risk of overwhelming you with poetry, here is the final verse in another poem I wrote today… offering at least a partial hope for the future…
Ink courses through the pen
Silencing the voice,
bringing Shame down from her
She slinks away, silken cape
slipping to reveal a gaunt and
‘I’ll be back’
the haunting hiss carries
‘I’ll be ready’
Now over to you… How do you bounce back from regret, shame or disappointment?