Originally published on The Consciously Parenting Blog April 3, 2012
In the other room, a volcano seemed to be exploding. I quickly realized it was my 13 year-old son who had just gotten very frustrated with his iPod and launched it across the room. I was on the phone with a client and my husband was out of town. Seemed like an impossible situation just then. I wrapped up my session and went out to see what had happened.
Without hesitation, I found myself saying those things he least needed to hear: “Why didn’t you think before you threw it?” “I’m not buying you another one if it is broken.” “Don’t you know I’m trying to work and be mom and dad?” “Don’t yell at me! I didn’t throw the iPod.” “I can’t work when you’re like this! I’m gonna need to cancel my next session because of you!”
Not my best parenting moment.
I got wrapped up in my own frustrations, my own story.
Oh, and did I mention I was just about to publish a parenting book? Kind of a confidence shaker when my kid explodes like a volcano just days before my book is due to come out. What do I really know anyway?
But then I remembered that I don’t have to know everything. That’s a big part of my book. I don’t have to be a perfect parent, I just need to be real.
I need to remember that there’s nothing more important than the relationship. And that reconnection is just as important as connecting. It was time for a “do-over.”
I set my own story aside and really entered the world of my son. And I saw someone who was in pain. I saw a boy who needed love the most who deserved it the least. I could focus on his behaviors and punish him, but I would be missing the boy who gifted me with his presence 13 years before. He was suffering and throwing his iPod was a communication. And it was the only way he knew how to communicate how he was feeling right then. (Seriously, how bad would you be feeling if you were upset enough to throw your iPod?)
So I sat with him and allowed myself to feel what he was feeling- the frustration, the anger, the darkness. And I knew what that felt like. I remembered what it felt like to be 13. I knew what it felt like to be alone, to feel like nothing was going right, and I told him that. And I felt it, too. I found myself telling him about the hope that I’ve always had for him since the moment he was born- that the moment I first gazed into his eyes was the first time I understood the expression about being willing to walk in front of a bus for someone else. And we cried together.
I listened some more as he continued to talk and he told me what it has been like for him. The tears came. We connected. I saw him for where he was. I forgot about the iPod because it wasn’t about the iPod.
It was exhausting. I cancelled my next session, which is something I really don’t ever like to do. I didn’t cancel it with anger at him, but with compassion. I had shifted. This was what he needed right now. And it was my job as his mother to give it to him. To see him. To feel him. To hear him.
The iPod sustained damage. They’re not the most durable of devices, especially when thrown across the room. But I didn’t take it away or shame him for what he’d done. And I didn’t buy him a new one, either. The iPod was its own lesson for him once he had calmed down and was able to think more clearly again.
I learned more about where my son was in a few hours than he’d communicated in a while. And I was grateful for the opportunity.
I’m not a perfect parent. And you aren’t, either. And it is OK. We all have our struggles. We all handle things less than ideally. But when we can remember that it is all about the relationship, that it is through our challenges, our connections, and our reconnections that we all heal, one day at a time, one moment at a time, things begin to shift.