PARENTING THROUGH TRIGGERS
Before I had children I had no idea what being a parent meant. No one explained the details of what is really required of you. No one talks about the challenges you’ll face when you’re exhausted, frustrated and going on your third day of not showering. No one talks about how parenting triggers past hurts. At least no one spoke to me about it. Not one parent said a word.
I’ve since learned that (now in my fifth year of being a parent) your triggers may be silent and you may not see them coming, but they will. They may have quietly nestled into a cozy spot only to eventually become louder and louder until you’re forced to recognize a whole lot of stuff you’ve either ignored or denied for a very long time. And you’ll have to choose. You’ll have to choose whether to ignore them; allowing them to exist possibly ruining you, your child and your family or you can choose to take a deep look at yourself and rearrange some shit so you can live a joyous life with the lovely people you call family.
It’s difficult looking within, facing our faults. It’s scary when you examine your foundation only to find cracks and damp crumbling stone. But it is worth it.
BREAK THE CYCLE
It’s easy to repeat the cycle. It’s easy to say the words that were said to you and do what was done to you as a child. But if it’s at the cost of a beautiful innocent spirit something needs to change. Just as your child is not responsible for your issues, you were not responsible for your parents’ but someone has to show up and end the cycle.
I came across a saying recently “Have a relationship with your child, not your triggers”. It hit me hard. I realized it is that simple. Might be simple in theory, maybe a bit harder in practice though getting down to it, it really is that simple. Have a relationship with your child, not your triggers. I wrote it on a piece of paper and taped it to my fridge. I also wrote “She is having a difficult time, she is not being difficult. Love her more.” I was reminded of a couple years back. One of our dogs was never quite happy. She complained a lot. A lot. When she was in she cried to go out. Once out she cried to come in. When the sun went down she was ready for bed, she complained if the lights were too bright and if there was too much noise in her immediate space. She would cry at the exact same time every day for breakfast and dinner ~ without fail her internal clock was bang on. She’d cry to go for a walk but once on a walk was never quite pleased with where we were and where we were heading. Because of this barrage of complaints we were pretty impatient with her too. I remembered often asking her to go lay down just to have some space and quiet from her. One day I realized that we were ruining this beautiful soul with every “go lay down” and “stop this, stop that”. I realized we were breaking her spirit by ignoring what it was she was really looking for ~ connection. The more she complained the more we resisted. The more we resisted the more she’d complain. So one day I wrote on our kitchen black board “Love Bella more”. I stopped telling her to stop this, stop that. I stopped asking her to go lay down. When she asked for something I gave it to her ~ cuddles, walks, in, out, whatever she wanted. I embraced her need for quiet by supporting and encouraging her, when she’d check out at 7pm, to go upstairs and sleep in our bed. We’d all be downstairs but she was in our womb like bedroom loving the king size bed she wasn’t supposed to be in. She was loved and it showed. She changed and the atmosphere in our home lightened. She responded to us differently and to her environment.
We moved not too long ago. Not only to a new house but to a new town. Our first move since our daughter was born. She was born at home so it was a very emotional move. She hadn’t lived anywhere but that house; that home was all she knew. Also, shortly after moving we welcomed her new baby brother into our lives. Big changes all at once. Huge shifts for her. It began to show. When things became really challenging, behavior I hadn’t witnessed before and never expected to see from her, I found myself reacting to her rather than remaining calm and in control. I found myself getting triggered. I realized there are certain things she may do that I am not comfortable with. But it’s not because she’s a “bad” person or what she is doing is abnormal ~ it’s because something deep within me is being stirred up and I am forced to face it.
I knew it could go either way but I chose to love her more. Even in the toughest of moments I loved her more. Instead of allowing these triggers to control me I accepted them. Without accepting my triggers I could not move through them. If I resisted them they would grow. In choosing to love her more I really was choosing to love myself more too.
We could have gone the opposite direction. Where some parents go I’m sure. It’s the easier way. Harsh discipline. Reprimanding “bad” behavior. But that’s not our way. We decided to go further into loving her and respond with more compassion. Triggers sometimes lie to you and tell you that you have the right to be upset. You have the right to push back at the emotions that are being hurled at you; but it is in those moments that remaining centered in love and compassion that matter most.
Connection. That is what is being begged for when children “act out”. Instead of allowing our triggers to manipulate us into resisting their need, embrace it. Love them more. Love them more just as you wish to be loved more in those dark moments when you “act out”. Those moments whether you are 4 or 40 are all the same. A deep need and pleading for connection.
It’s important to remember that it’s never too late to choose a compassionate path and to reconnect with your children. It’s never too late to acknowledge those triggers that over take you in those challenging moments. Apologize for your behavior. Work on changing those patterns. It’s worth it.
“Understanding alone cannot prevent disrupted connections from occurring. Some will inevitably happen. The challenge we all share is to embrace our humanity with humor and patience so that we can in turn relate to our children with openness and kindness. To continually chastise ourselves for our “errors” with our children keeps us involved in our own emotional issues and out of relationship with our children.”
~ Dan Siegel