The other night I had a “rupture” in communicating with my son. In other words, I erupted.
It wasn’t the first time (although it probably was the largest eruption) and it probably won’t be the last. I certainly wish it didn’t happen, and I can process why it happened and tools to prevent it later. But really the most important part is how it ended.
When I saw fear on his face, and he started to cry in a very different way than when he doesn’t get his way, I knew what happened and I snapped out of it.
In that micro-instant, I calmed and I went into repair mode.
Let me just explain I did not physically harm my child.
But I yelled, a guttural yell that came from my toes.
It felt primal and out of control. and in the split second after, when I saw his reaction, it felt emotionally harmful.
Here is what happened to the best of my recollection:
I rage-yelled at my newly 4-year-old. I basically growled his name and he immediately started to cry. I remembered being in his shoes. I immediately recognized what had happened and calmed.
I held him.
I reminded him why it’s important to listen and then I apologized saying,
Mommy was tired and frustrated and she reacted in a not nice way and will take a time out as soon as you are in bed.
When he was calm I asked what he was feeling and thinking when he started to cry. He said,
I asked if he was scared that I would hurt him. He said no. (Phew.) I asked if he was scared because I was being mean, and he said yes. I apologized again and said,
Mommy would never hurt you and never wants to be mean to you, and I will work on not being mean because you do not deserve it.
I asked him to work on listening better. We shook hands and had a good long hug and snuggle.
Later during my “timeout” I was feeling all the feels and processing.
My body hurt with despair. I did not like how I was feeling. I want to protect my kids not harm them.
I posted in a Moms in Private Practice (Mental Health) group I am in. Not because I needed advice, but just to process…and I guess maybe I was looking for a little validation too.
Well, of course this group was very supportive. Therapists working to balance their headful of knowledge with momming is hard.
Heck, momming is hard, period.
So needless to say it was validating, but what was maybe even more helpful was the concrete language I heard over and over. Repair.
I did repair work almost immediately with my son and that is the most important part.
Obviously it would be fabulous if for the rest of my life I only speak to my children in a calm voice of reason, but I’m human so that probably isn’t likely.
Now I am focused on the idea of “repairing the rupture.”
This is a good life lesson in all relationships, but this is also how each generation can get healthier in their communication.
Our relationships and communication will be healthier by recognizing our limitations, taking ownership, repairing, and having resolution.
I am going to try to recognize when my fuse is shorter. (In this particular case I had a couple of stressful, frustrating, sleepless days, and needed a breather.) When my frustration is escalating I’ll have more intention to take a pause. My husband was traveling so I couldn’t tap out of the ring so to speak but there are other ways to take a pause. I could have left the bathroom. My son was safe just standing there and if it meant bedtime would be even later, oh well. Momming is hard and that makes taking a pause even more important.
Some deep breaths and some positive thought mantras like:
I’m a good mom.
I can do this.
It’s just a phase.
However, when I do react instead of respond (reactions are quick and more about us and what we are feeling; responses are thoughtful and more about the other person), and that reaction is negative I now know I have the tools to repair it.
This eruption was contained and then repaired.
I’m guessing my son hasn’t thought about it much since. I believe we have a pretty peaceful and definitely loving home.
Knowing I can always repair has brought me some relief and hope as a mom.
I hope it does the same for you.