I know that I am following the right path for me when going to work means interviewing incredibly diverse, insightful people that leave me buzzing with energy after a good interview. I feel so blessed when I step back and realize people pay me to ask questions, research interesting topics, and then write reports. Recently, I struck the serendipity jackpot again when I was interviewing a child psychologist for an upcoming story on mindfulness. I'll save the good stuff for the article itself, but the whole conversation was super juicy, valuable teachings that I plan to revisit again and again in my parenting career. I have it recorded and took fastidious notes, but the big take-away, for me, was this:
She said it was not just okay, but beneficial, to lose it once in awhile in front of your kids.
I spend a lot of energy working on harnessing my reactions, being an even-tempered presence, and getting my Zen on in a regularly chaotic gig. I fight the urge to lose it, but I do, and I am usually washed over with guilt. Succumbing to the urge to yell, or stomp around, or growl makes me feel like a temporary failure. This psychologist, who specializes in mindfulness training, said that, actually, it would serve my daughters well to see me experience a range of emotions, rather than being some stoned-looking earth mama (my words, not hers!).
The key is to follow very human outbursts with a very self-controlled reaction. Model how to deal with frustration, so they can see for themselves how it looks to take deep, cleansing breaths and chill out. Show them what anger looks like, then demonstrate the importance of taking a moment to collect myself and apologize for my behaviour. You know, the very things I ask them to do.
Huh. Writing this out, it all sounds so simple. I can see, though, how clear the connection is between the behaviour and words I model and my girls' reactions. They reflect back to me what they see. Sometimes that means I hear Abby yell, "Goddammit!" when she ruins her watercolour painting with a black blob, but it also means I see Hailey solve her arguments by offering a hug when using her words to apologize is too difficult for her.