On making the choice to connect, again and again, with my kids

December 1 | Guest post by Miki DeVivo
Photo by Kid, used under Creative Commons license.

This morning was a rough one. You know the kind where everyone is cranky and just can't seem to shake the yuckies? The kind of day where everything spirals down down down and you find yourself acting in ways you wish you wouldn't — yelling, blaming, threatening. Yeah, we had one of those.

What I found frustrating in the moment and fascinating now is just how closely linked my kids' behavior is with mine. If they're using potty words and I ask them nicely to stop, they usually do. But if I get cranky and frustrated and say I don't want to be around them when they talk like that, it just gets worse. And worse. They feel more and more disconnected from me and from the place of goodness within themselves. And then before I know it, we're all in a crappy mood.

It's so different from what I thought parenting would be like. I had no idea just how connected we'd be, how one of us can set the emotional tone for the rest. I find myself frustrated and wondering when saying poopoobutthead will lose its appeal, and they'll just be pleasant and stop being so damn willful.

So, in an effort to keep the older one from antagonizing the little one while he picks up the Honey Nut Cheerios he spilled while laughing in my face, I send her up to her room, which only increases her feelings of disconnection and yuck. And it makes me feel bad because I-should-be-able-to-control-them-better-by-now-damnit. The morning proceeds along this escalating wave of disconnect and yuckiness till she's dropped off at her school (thank God) and I'm just about to walk out of his classroom.

Even now I can stop moving away from them and change course. Even at my crankiest, I can still choose love.

And then I realize — even now, even now I can turn this around. If they are so deeply connected to me, then just as my behavior can send things down hill reeeeeeally fast, the opposite must also hold true. Even now I can stop moving away from them and change course. Even at my crankiest, I can still choose love.

I bend down, look in to the little one's eyes and tell him I love him always. I stand up again and he hugs me tight, landing a kiss right on my stomach ("I kissed your penis, mommy!" I'm not even kidding. What'd I tell you about the fascination with bodily functions??) and bounds off to the slide.

Climbing back in the car, I feel better but not great. My older one's more of a challenge for me and I'm dreading how she's going to behave when I pick her up from school — if she was disconnected from me before, lord knows what a full day of school with that feeling will do to her. And then, instead of turning right to go home, I turn left and drive myself back to her school. She's in a new school now (Kindergarten already!?) and I don't know if they'll let me interrupt her during class, but I have to try.

"I really need to give my daughter a hug, is that OK?" I ask the lady at the front desk. "Sure," she says, "go on in." I put my visitor's pass on and walk to her room. When I open the door she's sitting on the floor with her back to me reading a book with her friends. I catch the teacher's eye, point to my daughter and motion that I want to hug her. The teacher nods her approval. I kneel down, wrap my arms around her and whisper, "I love you."

"Mama!" She's happy to see me, but a bit confused. "Why are you here?"

"I love you," I say, "and I just needed you to know how much and that everything's OK."

"Mama," she says again, satisfied. Then she asks, "Can I have a kissing hand?" I kiss her little palm (how are her hands still so little when the rest of her is getting so big?) and her face lights up. I give her another quick squeeze, knowing that we are OK, and head back out to my car, grateful for her willingness to forgive, her willingness to let me back into her heart. Grateful I chose to soften my heart, and grateful for the blessing of hope.

We are all connected. It only takes a moment to return to love.