Every once in awhile we talk about it directly, but almost every post contains some component of having our buttons pushed. Yesterday's post on grieving the loss of the special relationship with a first child put it right back in the front of my mind.
I posted the specifics of what it was that I realized was happening to my son that had happened to me in the comments:
"The mismatch I felt was that my son seemed to be really angry and want to cry and I felt like I couldn't comfort him. And then I offhandedly made a remark to my therapist about how my mom said I just wanted to hurtle out of her arms, and I always felt like she was trying to make everything better all the time.
And my therapist connected the dots in half a second and said, "So it sounds like you really just wanted someone to acknowledge and accept your anger, not tell you that everything was going to be OK."
Um, duh. So, yeah, once I started saying to my son "You're angry! You feel mad and sad and you just want to cry!" And he'd look at me and then stop crying and want to hug me! Like as soon as I acknowledged his angry feelings and validated them instead of just glossing over them and trying to comfort him, he didn't need to be so angry anymore.
Then, strangely, it started to be easier for me to be angry. And I talked to my mom about it, and she realized she was never really allowed to be angry as a child, either. And, even more strangely, in the past few years since having this realization, my mom has allowed herself to have her own anger, too.
Round, like a circle like a wheel within a wheel..."
And hedra hit it right between the eyes with this assessment:
"4) Check your own history. If your pain seems at all out of true to the situation, likely you're handling two situations at once - the current one, and something in the past. Worth looking into. I found I was mourning my own relationship change to my mom from back when my baby brother was born. AND some of the pre-and-post divorce-of-my-parents emotional burden. I'd 'repaired the rift' through the relationship with my eldest, and then here it was torn open again! I learned instead to allow the stretch in the process, and recognize that as a child I saw the relationship as torn APART when it was merely stretched to a thinner thread and greater distance. As an adult I can see that the thread is and always was there, it just wasn't something I could recognize. (Which isn't to say that I don't sometimes feel like the relationship I had with G isn't just busted a bit - we get along well, but I still feel the sharp edges of what used to be my perception of the relationship join... only, I suspect that's still old history showing up again, too. It's not so big an issue for me that I feel a need to go back into therapy at the moment, but I could see how it could have been if I hadn't already done a huge amount of therapy BEFORE child two came along!)."
The more I live as a parent, the more I think that it's only partially about parenting the child in front of you, but partially about healing yourself. And whenever you feel emotion out of proportion to the actual situation, that's telling you that you've hit on something in yourself that wasn't right. (So maybe Marina is particularly feeling this because she felt a loss as an older child, and maybe Jennifer is feeling bad for the second because she didn't get enough alone time with her parents.)
I got an email a few months ago from a women who wanted to know what to do about her toddler daughter's crying, because it literally made her cower and shake, and she'd do anything to get her daughter to stop crying. (Not a sustainable model.) She wanted to know if I had any tips to stop a toddler from crying. (Short of duck tape, no.) I asked if she'd been allowed to cry when she was a toddler. She said that no, she'd had to be quiet because her dad was an alcoholic and would fly into an absolute rage whenever the kids made any noise. Bingo! But when I pointed this out and said she could use the crying reaction as a way to help herself and also give her daughter what she didn't get, she didn't want to hear it and just wanted a quick fix to stop her daughter from crying.
I think about that woman at least twice a week, and wonder how things are going. I know there's nothing I can do about her situation. But I'm hoping that by continuing to talk about it here, maybe others of you who are wondering why certain things make you absolutely lose it (out of proportion to the situation--losing it is sometimes the only reasonable reaction) can help figure it out. And that will make things better not only for you, but for your kids.
Thoughts? If you're having situations that are making you feel stuck emotionally, post them and we'll see if we can troubleshoot. That anger thing with me was so simple, but I never would have gotten there on my own. And if anyone else has had revelations, if you post them maybe it will spark something in someone else.