From Love withdrawal to compassion with ourselves….
Punishment is something I feel really uncomfortable with. I do my best not to punish my child and I learn more and more not to punish myself.
However when I am feeling powerless I resort to the punishment of love-withdrawal. And it is not a very comfortable thing to do. I do hurt when I punish Maya (5 years). I withdraw my love as it was withdrawn from me.
Recently I had some insights around that I would like to share.
We where sitting at the dinner table. Maya really close snuggling next to me, repentantly giving me kisses. She was really lovely to me and I enjoyed it.
On the other side of the table sat Vandano, my partner, talking about something.
Out of the blue Maya reacted in a very unfriendly way to her. She suddenly started swearing and shouting. I can’t even remember about what.
I felt myself getting really stiff and tense. I still do not like when Maya swears even after a lot of work around it. Something gets touched in me when someone is rude and loud. I felt paralyzed and unable to relax.
The next moment Maya snuggled into my side again. I reacted out of my tense and disconnected annoyance of her and was harsh and pulled away from her. I said “I don’t want that now!”.
She immediately started crying. I felt terrible. I withdrew my love and my softness from her. She was giving me some affection and I pulled away. Maya flung herself in Vandano’s arm and cried hard.
What happed there for me?
I just sat there. I listened to the self-talk in my head. “I should have not done that” “I am suppose to be the adult here” “Pull yourself together”, ”She needs connection” “It had nothing to do with you”….
Then I stopped and saw it as a practice and an opportunity to see what is really going on. I remembered how it felt to be punished by my mother, for being obnoxious and rude. She usually withdrew all attention from me. It was so painful. So so so painful! I felt lost and alone and clueless what and how to be.
This lost-feeling was repeating itself right now. I felt disconnected and sad, clueless and powerless.
I feel that a lot of the times when Maya is swearing and aggressive. I don’t think that these strong emotions and behaviors where at all accepted in my childhood. I had to be the ‘good girl’ who did not make life complicated for my mother.
I trained myself to be vigilant. To my mothers signs that I was ‘misbehaving” or showing feelings that were not acceptable to her. I was aware of certain looks from her, certain tone of voice or her body language. I took these as signs that I was not accepted with these feelings, not wanted and I needed to be changed. I succeeded to suppress these unwanted feelings most of the time, but I shrunk inside.
I remember having massive rage-attracts in after school-daycare when I stared school. These episodes didn’t last long, because I was severely punished for them. These feelings just had to come out.
I wish there would have been an adult to hold me and see me in these ‘oh so powerful feelings’. And see the fearful ‘oh so fragile little girl in me’ and still love and accept me ‘how I am’. I found another way to keep them in check and withdrew even deeper into my world where no adult could reach me.
Today it is such a challenge to be with aggressiveness and swear-y behavior in my child because no one was ever could hold me in them when I was a child.
I could see all that, in these moments when Maya cried in my partners arms.
Then I felt a deep sigh coming out of my chest and I could give myself compassion. I felt the love for my little girl in me. I could see that I was transported back into old feelings.
And I could see that sometimes I can hold Maya in these feelings and sometimes I cannot.
I gave myself the love I wanted then as a child. I was able to stop the love-withdrawal I learned so long ago. I gave me the love I wanted from my mother.
I could tell myself: “It is ok to feel disconnected” “There is no need to change”, “I (the adult Sarah ) am here with you, you not alone” “ I know you do your best” .
I felt myself relax and open up again.
Then I held my arms wide open and apologized for pushing Maya away. I told her that I love her always and it is hard to show that when I have my feelings. That I do my best in staying connected with her and sometimes I just do not know how.
I do not know if she really got what I said. It was important to voice it for me. We always do our best to stay connected and love each other and sometimes it seems that the love is not there but deep in our hearts the love goes never away.
On that day I stopped punishing myself for punishing Maya. This is the first step. I start to truly believe that is the transformation. When we can live no punishment for us, our kid can learn from us as an example. I do believe the less we punish ourselves the less we need to do it to our kids.
Maya could receive my apology gracefully, like most of the time.
I experience her as a delight when I see her for what she truly is. When I can see past her unexpressed feelings and unmet needs.
Just like I am a delight when I see past my old unhelpful patterns and unexpressed feelings.
Lets be realistic here, we human and we do our best to give our children the best start in life we could possibly can. They going to turn out more aware and more alive then we are, that’s for sure. And when we can learn on our parenting journey to grow too, double the benefit.
Lets face it, we stuff up sometimes but its how we deal with that, is the most important thing. When we can be more gracefully forgiving and compassionate with ourselves they learn that too!!!
That’s what I want for my daughter, that she doesn’t need to punish herself for being less than she wants to be. Because inherently she and all of us are whole and flawless inside!
To forgiveness and compassion in times of “Ahhhhgggrrrr, I did not want to do that”