Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control...catching UP!

I have been remiss at writing and doing my homework for the Beyond Consequences class. I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out what’s behind my lack of motivation…well, not really. I KNOW what’s going on…just don’t really want to admit it.

We have spent the last few weeks talking about our own exposure to trauma and how that affects how we respond and react in our daily lives. When children are added into the equation, things just get intensified.

Without going into too much gory detail, I will tell you that I have experienced a great deal of trauma in my life. The obvious ones were my initial separation from my birthmother, my parent’s divorce, choosing to leave my mother’s home at age 14, my struggle with bulimia,  the dissolution of my in-law’s marriage and, last but certainly not least, my struggles with infertility.

I have been in therapy…oh, dear, have I ever! I have seen so many in my lifetime. I have grown and learned so much with each experience, but have never fully dealt with the trauma in my past. I had always assumed that since I knew it existed and was able to label it, put it in a box and stick it on a shelf  that it was not affecting me.

After listening to the webinars on past trauma and how it comes out in our parenting, I suddenly realized that all of those boxes have holes in them…the trauma leaks out of the holes and comes into my being when I get agitated or stressed.

Most people have a pretty high threshold for stress and chaos. Children are great barometers for our stress. Those parents with a high threshold don’t get agitated very easily. The are the ones that keep calm and regulated while their children throw tantrums or cut their hair or smear excrement on the walls. Those of us with trauma in our past aren’t quite that lucky. Our fuses are very short. It does not take much to explode into fits of anger and rage.

I was happy and also quite sad to get this new information. I was happy that I finally had an answer to why I got so deregulated so quickly while my friends always seemed to remain calm and regulated with their children.

I was sad to realize that I still have so much work to do to. It takes so much effort for me to stop in my tracks and breathe…to realize that they are NOT pushing my “buttons,” that they are being children. They are looking to ME for regulation. If I’m deregulated, how in the world are they going to be able to shift from their state of disregulation into a state of calm?

So what have I done differently in the past few weeks?

I have learned to breathe. I have learned to take a moment BEFORE I explode. BEFORE I react. If Elvia is about to go into a tailspin about Jolee sitting too close, I do NOT send her to her room. Instead I approach her, get down to her level and talk to her about how she is feeling.

“Wow, you are feeling so deregulated this morning! You are feeling afraid that Jolee is going to get my attention this morning, aren’t you? I bet you want mommy all to yourself, don’t you? Well, I’m here right now and I love you and I’m never leaving you.”

And we hug and it’s done.

In the past I have yelled and screamed, accused and fought to the bitter end and NO one felt regulated in the end.

Here’s another example of the kinds of changes I’m making with my children:

We have been talking about giving our children allowances. We have discussed it a little bit with the girls, mostly with Meka. We had explained that she would be responsible for doing some extra chores around the house in order to get money each week. The money would be hers to spend on things that she wants…after discussion with us and approval from us.

Yesterday she got off the bus and explained to me that a friend of hers wanted to play. I immediately got annoyed…I don’t like surprises and do not appreciate my children dictating our afternoon schedule. I immediately thought about ME and not about HER and what SHE was feeling.

“You have chores to do at home.”

“I don’t want money. I’m NOT doing chores.”

“Well, you can forget about having a playdate! In fact, you might be spending the afternoon by yourself in your room!”

Disregulated. Gross. Yuck.

But I could FIX it! I could approach her again after I had calmed down and had a chance to breathe.

I found her in the house…didn’t yell to her, but found her and approached her with a calm voice, “Meka, I’m hearing that you do not want to do extra chores. Is that right?”

She was able to articulate how she was feeling. She told me that she doesn’t mind taking care of the animals and picking up her room and helping with laundry. She doesn’t like taking the laundry off the line because the clothespins fly all over the place. She doesn’t like emptying the dishwasher because it takes a long time and she can’t reach everything.

We were able to come to a compromise. I told her that I heard her. That I understood the chores that she didn’t want to do and that I was willing to do those things myself. I told her that I appreciated her telling me how she was feeling about the chores.

Big sigh. We did it. I did it.

And so this is my work. To stop and take a minute BEFORE I react. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I always have the opportunity to have a “do-over.” I’m teaching my children that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as we are humble enough to make it right.

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