It’s you I like,
The way you are right now,
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
It’s you yourself
It’s you I like.
The above lines are taken from the song, It’s You I like written by Fred Rogers in 1971. Here is the link to the full lyrics.
In an effort to use my feelings chart to accurately name how I am feeling, just like I ask my kids to do, I’ve been feeling frustrated, disappointed, and mad. I don’t like the way I feel in these types of moments. I also don’t like my energy, tone, or attitude. When Keener is jumping off of furniture, pinning his sister to the ground, or running off with dirty silverware he swiped from the dishwasher while I was loading it, my blood starts to boil.
In these moments, I am quickly forgetting Mr. Rogers message of “It’s you I like,” and am giving the exact opposite message — I don’t like you. In fact, I don’t even want to be around you right now. I don’t want to chase you, or yell at you, or threaten to take away Peppa Pig. I just want you to be my calm son who listens and has self control. Is that too much to ask?
Being human, I understand why, when his impulsivity hits, my default isn’t to remind him how much I like him. “You aren’t listening to me and are hurting your sister? It’s you I like buddy.” Of course, there is nothing he can do to make me stop loving him, but those moments are not my go to times to wrap him in hugs and kisses and tell him how much I love him. But should they be?
My behaviorist brain says no. Definitely not. The last thing I want to do is “reinforce” this behavior, therefore condoning it and encouraging him to act this way in the future. But the Mr. Rogers in me thinks maybe this is the exact moment that he needs the reminder, it’s you I like. Even when you are not being safe, I still love you. I can’t have you running around the house with knives because my job is to keep you safe and keep Grace safe, but I still love you. Go get the knife that you hid behind the couch and put it back in the dishwasher. I know you are capable of doing that and will when you’re ready.
On paper, I can totally do that. In the moment, I’m not so convinced. My autopilot angry button gets pushed pretty quickly, not leaving much time to remind myself to try a different approach. The good news? There will be countless opportunities for me to try out this strategy in the future 🙂 I’m confident about that.
I also know that as much as, in theory, I want my kids to be perfect robots who listen 100% of the time and always have self control, I also know this is not realistic. And this is definitely not what is being modeled by me! Despite knowing that 1 serving of Swedish Fish has 23 grams of sugar, I still find myself eating 2, 3, or even 4 servings at a time. Self control? Definitely easier to talk about than exhibit.
In an effort to assuage my guilt, I started this morning by telling Keener: Do you know that I love you, even when you aren’t listening? (I’ve been really getting on his case recently so he started to name times where he knows he’s been exceptionally silly). Yes bud, even when you are out of control, I still love you, do you know that? He shook his head yes. Even when mommy is really frustrated, she still loves you a lot. “Mom, can we read this book?” OK. So he wasn’t exactly digging this heart to heart. Which is just fine. It was what I needed to start my day on the right foot. Or at least not on the wrong foot.
I’m not guaranteeing that ‘leading with love’ when feelings of frustration arise is going to help. But I am going to try. I also know that the idea of someone telling me when I am the equivalent of his ‘out of control,’ It’s you I like. I love you just the way you are, may in fact be just what I need to hear. Feelings are complex and almost always more than what meets the eye. While it may not change his behavior, I know I will feel better if I can default to love rather than anger. Next time he takes off running with that yogurt covered spoon toward our white couch (clearly purchased pre kids), I’m going to *attempt* to take a deep breath, and remind him I love him. Wish me luck.