Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 39: Respectfully Annoyed

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.
Before I had kids, I dreamed of vacationing on a Mexican beach, sipping mai tais and relaxing while my pre-baby body soaked up the sun. Now I fantasize about sitting alone in a quiet room for an hour. Oddly, I made the beach dream a reality more times than I've been blessed with the quiet room in the past two years. Perhaps this explains the short road to annoyance. But in any case, it's forcing me to look at an aspect of my communication skills that need a little polishing. Okay, this project may be about being kind to myself, but it's also about being authentic, so let's be honest: I'm not polishing, I'm developing this skill from scratch because it's sorely lacking.

Sometimes, no matter how much you love someone, they can be downright annoying. This is especially true when that someone is two years old. We've recently entered a persistent stage where names must be repeated over and over before a sentence can be uttered, and questions, regardless of the fact that they've already been answered, must also be repeated a minimum of four times. This is enough to drive me flippin' nuts. But of course I don't want to really drive home the message "You're annoying!" and make him carry that around, so what's a mom to do? 

The mainstream approach to this would be to try to hide the fact that I'm annoyed; pretend those feelings aren't there, shove them down, or coat them in other forced feelings that aren't really feelings at all because you're not feeling them. Not only am I too intense to be capable of these things, but doing so would model disingenuousness. The energy tied to our emotions is something people feel, not something they hear us say, and children are more in touch with energy than anyone. When we try to hide feelings, deny them, or name them something other than what they are, we either send the message that the true feeling, the one they can sense but we won't admit, isn't okay to feel, or we leave them confused because what they know (the energy they feel) and what we tell them (the mislabeling or denial of the feeling) are incongruous.

So if my approach, both by default and by philosophical choice, is to be authentic with these feelings, I have to do it responsibly. Here's where the communication skills are falling short.

As I made supper, Jackson was asking the usual questions: What are you doing? Can I see? Why are you doing that? How does that work? And on and on. Finally he came to his favorite, "Can I help?" In this case, there was a large, sharp knife involved in the project, so I explained why he couldn't. He understood, but didn't want to accept it, so he proceeded to ask me again and again. I hit my limit by the fourth or fifth time and finally shouted, "Jackson, I already told you no. Stop asking!" To which he replied, "Mommy, you should talk to Jackson more respectfully." Face meet palm.

It's okay to be annoyed by annoying behavior. I'm only human. But it's not okay to let that annoyance drive me to treat him with less love and less respect. Instead of being reactive, I can work on communicating purposefully. I can communicate annoyance respectfully just like I can joy, anger, love, and sadness. The emotions change, but the communication doesn't have to. And while I'm developing this skill, I can rest easy knowing that I've given him the confidence and tools he needs to stand up to my reactivity and even help me through it.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, yes, we are there too! I also feel like I am learning this skill from scratch. I actually do try to explain to him that some of the things he does make it hard for me to do what I am doing and I get frustrated. He seems to get that as we talk about him being frustrated when I prevent him from doing things he wants to do.

    Like you, I don't want to hide my feelings, but I also don't want to yell at him all the time because I am embracing them too fully.

    I guess I just want to say I am with you!