I talked a few months ago about how we were working on shame resilience with our children. We’d gotten to a point where we were stuck between a rock and a hard place with our oldest daughter Gracie. Parenting your oldest can feel like a terrible experiment at times. Whenever we get into new territory it can feel like you’re practicing medicine without a license, or becoming a practicing armchair therapist.
We’re novice parents when it comes to Gracie. No matter where she is in life, I will never have parented someone at that age and stage before.
Anyway, today as we were working on our home decluttering project, she and Ava started arguing about who was going to have to put books away. I’m telling you, there is almost nothing more frustrating to me than children squabbling when I’m trying to get a project accomplished. I immediately felt like I was going to blow and yelled at them to just put the books away.
I keep questioning whether this decluttering method is too extreme. Pulling out every single book I owned today was emotionally draining. Most of the books I haven’t so much as glanced at in the last 5 years, and some of them I have actual guilt tied to letting them go…based on who gave them to me, and what their original purpose was “supposed to be”.
Since I’m mostly a person with books of projects and how to’s and recipes, boxes of books that I’m giving away can feel like a to-do list that I’m throwing away undone. Marie Kondo says to look at the books as having a purpose in your life. If that purpose is to be only half read, then so be it. I really loved that idea as I read the book, but I’m having a harder time putting it into practice than I thought.
Another stressful aspect of this whole decluttering thing is that we’re just 2 days away from having our cleaning lady come, and I’m terrified that our hard work will somehow get undone during the cleaning process. It’s a little irrational, but I hardly ever have enough time to actually talk with her about changes that have happened in the house, and having such large changes in a week just makes me feel nervous…especially when we’ve been working on it sooooo many hours.
Anyway, so with all the stress of trying to make progress on our decluttering project, I felt like I was going to blow. I don’t mean that I was just going to yell…I’d already done that, but I was going to go on a huge blow up tirade. The kind of yelling spree where I tell everyone how much I’m under appreciated, blah blah blah, and then I feel like a complete ass when it’s all over with. But somehow, I held it together when I saw the look of simmering rage on Ava’s face.
She stomped her little feet down the stairs after putting her books on the shelf, and both girls started in on what the other had done to her. I usually tell the girls to work out their own little spats, and let me tell you, this one was less than riveting. Grace was mad because she had put the books on the shelf and Ava had thrown them back on the floor. Ava had thrown them back on the floor because she was mad at Grace for not helping her open the baby gate. Etc. It was a big long line of unkindnesses.
A few months ago I might have started blaming them for being unkind to each other. Working on the guilt and shame aspect was a specialty of mine, and I think that it’s a major reason that we were seeing so many tantrums from Gracie and we were seeing Ava shut down with the emotion of it all. We’re doing things a lot differently now. We’re working as a family to trust each other that we all do the best that we can.
So we had unwound everything that had happened, but Gracie still wanted to work it out more. And so the girls talked and agreed that they could communicate with each other instead of being mean in response to having their feelings hurt. It felt like angels singing. Especially since it was Gracie wanting to take the initiative to work it out to completion. I think she tends to turn accusations inward and get incredibly defensive. I wanted to jump up and down to hear her say that she wanted to make everything better. Her feelings were hurt that Ava had thrown a favorite book on the floor, but she didn’t go on the attack. She just simply stated that it hurt her feelings. And Ava apologized. It was beautiful. The gate thing was an oversight.
Gracie and I had a nice long discussion about how talking things out and fixing problems right away feels so much better…by this point Ava was all done with the conversation and was working on doing head stands (as is usual these days). Then Gracie went on to say that she’s thinking that the entire family is in need of less screen time. It was incredibly adorable. I love watching her grow, and the maturity that she demonstrates.
At the end of Daring Greatly, Brene Brown discusses parenting, and teaching shame resilience. She says that you don’t have to be perfect at shame resilience to start implementing it. It just starts with a conversation from wherever you are. Our first conversations started from a place of saying things like “I want us all to work on being nicer to each other.” A few weeks ago, we had a discussion asking the kids to trust that the parents would let them have as much fun as possible. It feels like we’re in a little sweet spot at the moment. There are of course daily bumps in the road, but I’m loving the new emotional tools that we’ve been implementing.
Have you had any great conversations with your children lately? Care to share some insights?