Morning with Katya. The normal and the deep.
Feelings. Emotions. Behaviour.
They are all connected. Sometimes more than we want them to. Sometimes in the ways that we do not want.
But in their connection lies the key to understanding ourselves.
To understanding why we do things we do, why we don’t do things we want to do.
Its Monday morning.
My 5 year old daughter mentions at breakfast that she does not want to go to school.
It’s the middle of January. She loves the school overall - but “I don’t want to go to school” has been popping up a number of times this month.
In the past, I would have said something like: “Really? What’s wrong?” Or, maybe: “Oh, you just woke up, that is why you are feeling this way.” I would try to talk through this, explain to her how she is feeling, why, and how she could feel differently.
This morning, I sat next to her and said: “Really? You feel like you don’t want to go school, huh? And you would rather stay home? I get that. I get that feeling too, sometimes, especially nowadays in January. I just want to stay under the covers. “
She relaxes a bit and soon seems to forget that she did not want to go to school.
I help her get dressed, to make her feel a little cozier and warmer.
She gets in the car with her 8 year old sister. And I start cleaning the windows from the mist. I clean the passenger side, and smile through the tinted window where I guess that Katya is smiling back at me. On the other side MIsha asks me not to clean hers - as she finger wrote “I <3 mommy” on it.
Pleased and touched I get into the car to find Katya so upset, she is gasping for breath crying.
“You need to clean Misha’s window! This is so unfair!”
I start asking her why is it unfair and what exactly does she want. I explain why I cleaned the windows and why I won’t clean Misha’s.
She sticks with the “unfair” and crying. I don’t get it. She starts screaming and kicking the seat.
I start losing it. I stop the car, and in a seriously firm voice tell her to stop it. To stop screaming.
“I will only stop when you clean her window!”
I respond that demanding will get her nowhere.
Right away I notice the hypocrisy of my words. I tell her not to demand - while I am demanding her to stop screaming.
My beliefs about parenting are that we can’t really tell kids what to do - we need to show them. Yes, explaining and talking through things is good. But unless we are the living examples of what we are teaching them - we can’t teach that.
The contradiction of my message, especially delivered in such harsh tone of voice, gets to me. Thankfully, instead of going to feeling guilty and bad about myself - it helps me start connecting with her.
I ask her if she could stop screaming so I could drive us to school. It is ok to cry and feel upset - and maybe she could talk with me when she feels ready.
She continues crying but not screaming, and the next time I ask her about what is so unfair she is able to communicate to me that she wanted to draw something on her window, just like Misha. But now that I cleaned hers and she no longer can do that, I need to clean Misha’s to make it fair.
We go discussing the options, or writing on other parts of the car - but she won’t agree to anything. When we make it to school and let Misha out, Katya starts screaming again that she does not want to go to school.
Finally. We made a full circle from that first mention about school. And I get that this whole meltdown about the window was just an outlet for her deeper feelings.
I pick her up and for a while we stand in front of the school, hugging. I try to understand is there something wrong with school - but really I just want to keep hugging her and help her through this difficult feeling.
After the intensity of her crying goes down, we make plans to spend more time together, and maybe even skip school for a bit later this week.
“So it is all about not wanting to go to school huh? And I failed to understand you earlier and got angry at you. And you could not communicate that to me either. I am sorry this happened.
It happened before and will happen again :).”
She is still sobbing, but is smiling through it, and is ready to go to school.
I feel so grateful. For being able to kiss her face and her eyes and stay a little longer with her now. For being able to rearrange my work so I can make the extra time with her. Even deeper I feel grateful for being able to understand her, and to see how human it all is. For Katya, for me. To feel what we felt, to react the way we reacted.
My reaction to her earlier was very human and understandable. The kid is misbehaving, it is really inconvenient for us right now. So being an adult, and in charge, responsible for resolving this situation right now - I will just raise my voice, and gain control, and tell her what to do. In other cases I would go as far as telling her that she is causing trouble, and how dare she… And then we would leave it at that, gradually going down in our fuming, and maybe later I would talk my logic about what happened and why… But we would not get to this understanding and deeper connection. And the situation would repeat again, with very similar result.
For many people this seems normal. And that is why I want to write this blog. It is not necessarily about parenting. Or how to be with the kids. It is about questioning the normal, shaking it up. So we can get to the beautiful and the wonderful. Not always.
Life is what happens to us every day. It is what we do every day. How we feel every day. How we contribute to other people’s feelings every day.
Sometimes believing that something is normal, we miss out on making a deeper connection or enjoying the moment.