Words got us in trouble. Again. We always find the wrong ones to say. She says one thing, but I feel like those words tug and push and pull me where I don’t want to go and I resist. I counter. And I am left confused as the anger mounts and my own rage poses to annihilate us both as it storms in to bring order. So I retreat. It’s the only safe response. And she retreats, too. And I realize I’ve done it again.
She was hurting, but she presented anger. She was struggling, but she presented control and manipulation. And I took the bait.
Why do we do that? When we want love we get mad if it’s not given on our terms. When we need comfort we expect someone to read our mind and offer it. And when no one extends to us what we longed for, we find anger rising and we eventually engage in an argument where a fear of rejection is exposed. Then it all comes together in one blaring message that I’m sure my daughter heard loud and clear, “If Mom really loved me, she’d know I’m hurting and she’d want to comfort me. Now she’s fighting with me. I knew she didn’t love me.”
From my perspective, I’m wondering what just happened and I’m hurting that I blew it again.
We stood under our mulberry tree with toes fidgeting in the grass and the sun edged into evening hours, illuminating the blades and leaves bright green around us. Away from siblings and noise I was able to ask her questions that dug past the anger. We started way back on the timeline. It wasn’t about the moment words started to fly. Something hours or days before had festered. We needed to find that tender spot. And I listened to her as she shared about an event that was embedded with hurt and betrayal and frustration and shame. We talked about how she felt and I was able to validate those emotions. As all the toxic energy leaked out of her stance, I was able to reach out with tender affection. In that comfort I felt things settle into their place again.
I have come to understand that our daughters need to be taught this process. We need to be brave enough to dig past the anger that often confronts us and gently ask and probe and explore what led up to the anger. Most often, anger was not the first emotion that had come: a friend’s skewed intentions triggered feelings of helplessness, a coach’s accusing rant stirred feelings of failure, the parent on the sidelines with taunts that pierced triggered shame, a moment of moral failure produced its own set of landmines. I have discovered many of these things behind my snippy, moody preteen’s angry retorts. I could have easily decided to hide behind the dismissal, “Oh she’s just hormonal,” and I would have missed my daughter’s heart.
Many of us don’t naturally have language for emotions, especially if we were raised in environments where painful feelings could not be tolerated. But acquiring the ability to admit that we feel sad or hurt or betrayed or manipulated (or anything else, there are so many emotions) and being able to ask for and receive comfort for that emotion would set us on the path to emotional health that many of us have long needed. Teaching our daughters this can put them light years ahead of us.
This process is so terribly difficult. It requires more from me than just empathizing with a daughter’s blossoming heart that soars one moment and sours to everything in the next. It has required me to look at my agendas for her. I wanted her to play soccer. The competition was not a great environment for her budding sensitivity. But she was amazing on the field and I received a lot of personal affirmation from other parents. I was forced to do my own soul searching to compare my agendas to the emotional and physical toll that the sport was taking on her. It has forced me to take my daughter’s heart seriously and it has cost me my adult agenda for her. That has been hard. But I am finding it is so worth it.
My biggest struggle has come when I have had to practice what I preach. I have been forced to look at my own anger and the emotions behind it. I find myself going back on the timeline as well but it’s more complex for me than it is for my daughter. My timeline often has two layers because something from the present triggers unresolved emotions from the past. My son’s teasing of his sisters and his bull headed interactions with me can trigger the helpless feelings that I experienced when I was chronically bullied as a child. My anger was the only thing my son saw, but as I looked deeper I found several emotions that had been buried and had played me like a puppet for many years. The pain that came with learning to identify emotions from that second layer of my timeline forced me to reach out for help. I found the courage to risk vulnerability as I allow gifted healers and close friends to step with me into my past to help me make sense of the emotions rooted in
We are starting late in the game and so the catching up on all this stuff has been hard. We have had days where we have all been grumpy and unaware and we’ve failed in our attempts to get through all the issues unscathed. There are days where anger runs so high that attempts to talk and walk back over the events becomes an insurmountable mountain. But, as we strive for consistency, I know we’ll make it through the back log of junk that wrestles us to the ground and we’ll get much better at listening and empathizing and comforting. I’ve seen enough healing through this to know it’s very much worth it.
Linking Up With:
Teaching What is Good
photo credit: marie-ll via photopin cc