Parenting is hard, isn’t it? Who knew? As a kid it didn’t seem hard to me at all. You simply said no, raided your kid’s diary and drawers if you wondered what they were up to, and grounded them. Trust was not a word to be used with parenting. I think it was more “assume the worst.” I’m sure not everyone was raised that way, but it was the 1980s.
Now I am a parent; yes, I am constantly repaying my karma bank for my own childhood. One of the golden lessons of becoming a parent is that any life experience you had that didn’t quite make sense to you, was traumatic, or simply rocked your world, will come back into your life if you never dealt with it.
It will. A million times I say, it WILL!
There is no way you can be a parent without your children managing to push any and every button you may have. So, if you are planning on having children, go to therapy and process all your stuff right this minute! And, of course, you probably already have kids if you’re reading this. Don’t worry, it’s not too late. And you aren’t required to do therapy just because your sister pushed you down the stairs, then stood at the top as you cried in pain, laughing her seven year old butt off. But maybe you can learn to recognize your own triggers. This is such a popular word right now, but it’s just so good. Triggered. What gets pushed or pulled to make you pop? Just like a gun? Bam. Your kid doesn’t hear you ask them to come over to grab their shoes. You feel ignored. No one ignores you. That’s not respectful. They’re going to be just like that little jerk in traffic the other day who wouldn’t let you merge. Just like your brother who would purposely ignore you when you were little, singing a song and plugging his ears, while you tried and tried to get him to hear you. AGH! Just listen to me! But wait a second. Pause. Is your reaction really on level with the behavior? Maybe your kid is focused on their game or the t.v. (which can really suck in all of their attention). Maybe your kid is a slow to answer-er (like mine – I actually find myself counting to ten before I repeat the question, and typically she will answer in this time). Maybe this has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of desire to ignore you. So breathe for a moment. Even if you don’t know why a child’s behavior “triggers” certain behaviors in you, you can always pause. Unless they are running into traffic, then, please don’t pause! If you can get your brain back online, realize that every interaction in your brain is wired in such a way as to trigger previous, similar interactions. Why try to find a new way to make sense of this new interaction if the old way worked? We override the fact that this experience of our child ignoring us (even if it’s the 45th time they’ve done it) is actually a novel experience. It is impossible for us to have ever experienced this exact moment before. Impossible. Our brains take shortcuts.
It is simply about efficiency. So, remember, triggers are reminders that we are taking a shortcut. It’s like a flashing red light. The train is coming. But instead of stopping to let it pass, we usually speed up and let the trigger do it’s job (which, of course, might not be the safest route).
So, I say, Parents – this is a tough job. If you are trying at all, I give you credit. You also owe it to your children to do the best job you can. So, let’s try to up our games, all of us. Try to find times to connect with them, even if you are talking about video games! Talk, share, be real. And then start with step one, recognizing what is your “stuff” and what is not. Are you mad, like I sometimes get, because they came up and hugged you so hugely that you almost fell down the stairs? Are you worried they might laugh at you from the top of the stairs, just like my seven year old sister once did?
Keep breathing, and slow down the trigger train. Some short cuts lead you off cliffs.