~ Dau Voire
A reasonable request
The imitation leather upholstery of my fold-out couch has been damaged. I’d noticed it before, but had not wanted to get upset about it. I am a peaceful parent after all. But when the bald spot kept getting bigger I noticed I was getting angry. Still I didn’t want to get upset so I swallowed my irritation and found just enough peace in me to make a perfectly worded I-statement and a request: “When I see pieces of fabric being torn from my couch I feel upset and sad. I really value our things and want to have choice how I spend my money. Would you help me keep the couch intact by not picking at the fabric anymore?” Timidly they answered: “Yes mommy…” And I thought to myself: “I’ve been heard, my request is fulfilled and I did not blame, shame or punish them. Win!”
Or so I thought…
Oh no, STOP, breathe first…
The next morning I noticed the bald spot was still getting bigger. And I had one of those internal explosions. With restrained anger I started asking who had done that. And my youngest son, the only one who had even been in that room that morning lied to my face: “It wasn’t me!”. This shook me right up. I so want my children to feel safe around me, and here my son was thinking he needed to lie to me to protect himself. But why? I had taken such care not to say any harsh or angry words hadn’t I?
This time I remembered: “Oh no, STOP, breathe first…” And with a hand on my heart and a hand on my stomach I allowed myself to feel the full experience of what happened in me when I saw that damaged couch. I breathed and started to feel enormous rage. After the scary feeling passed through my body a childhood memory surfaced. From when my mother went to Paris with grandmother and I had to stay at her friends house. She had this structured wallpaper that, when I could not sleep at night alone in that strange bed, I would pick those little bubbles off. In my minds eye I replay the movie of how she grabbed me by my neck, pushed my nose on the bald spots and scolded me like I was a bad kitty. The shame, loneliness and helplessness overwhelmed me. And I wished there was somebody to protect me but I did not even dare tell my mom, afraid she would pick her friends side and give me a beating on top of all that.
And then I mourned my unmet needs. I had longed for understanding, consolation and compassion in stead of being afraid of more punishment. To be able to share this with my mother and receive compassion. But I could not. So I created this core belief that I was a bad girl, who deserved this kind of treatment. And here I was, with my own son, reacting to this unquestioned belief that he must be a bad kid to do such a thing. And suddenly I realized that, while I had been trying to speak nonviolently, there had been no actual nonviolent consciousness in our interaction. Just me trying to suppress all these painful feelings. I had been so busy with that, that I had not even stopped to ask myself the simple question: “Why did my son actually do as he did?”
Re-connecting with my son
I remembered this image of the cuddling mother cat, comforting the ‘bad’ kitty I had once seen. And then I guessed the needs behind my sons failure to comply to my request. I pulled him onto my lap and asked him if it is just such a satisfying feeling to rip the little pieces of fabric that are sticking out? And if maybe he was trying to create a nice straight triangle out of all the ugly uneven tears? “Yes!” he answered. And warm tears followed. Both his, and mine.
Tears unloading all the relief of being able to see my son for his beautiful self again. And tears for the sweet pain of self-forgiveness I found mirrored in my compassion for him. It just felt so satisfying to pick at those little bubbles and create patterns on the wall because it helped me feel less alone and afraid while I missed my mother. I really did not do it because I’m a bad girl…