Glancing through Marguerite Kelly’s Family Almanac, I was reminded about the importance of enjoying our children. Yes, even our four year olds who enjoy ordering us around. Kelly acknowledges very simply that, “Your little girl is ordering everyone around because that’s what you do at four.” She suggested that part of the solution is more laughter and I couldn’t agree more.
Times have been stressful. We are going on almost a YEAR of pandemic life and for those of us with small children, wow. That’s something like 45,000 loads of laundry, 6,000 snacks and for many of us, very limited social interactions. These times have shown us just how strong we really are.
We don’t get to choose what happens to us, but we do get to choose how we respond to our experience.Edith Eger
In some ways, I feel like I am thriving. I have been inspired by Dr. Edith Eger in a way that has been transformative. It has allowed me to learn to live in a different way and prioritize myself. Show myself self love in a whole new way. However, there have also been countless times where I have felt depleted. I feel I have no energy left to give and I’m simply surviving, far from thriving. If you haven’t read my post about both/and, check it out here.
It’s very dangerous to put your whole life into someone else’s hands. You are the only one you’re going to have for a lifetime. All other relationships will end. So how can you be the best loving, unconditional, no-nonsense caregiver to yourself?Edith Eger
As a result of the self love piece, I am learning to not beat myself up for the times when I feel run down and lonely. Instead, I am taking them at face value, learning to breath, and reminding myself (just like my kids) that feelings come and go.
One of my greatest indicators when I know I am in a classic “bad mood” is when I don’t even want to be around myself anymore. Then I know something is in need of a shift. This is where the laughter piece comes into play.
One of my darling kiddos loves to say some variation of, “I’m going to poop on your head and then take you to the dump.” Similarly, this same loving four year old is very much in the dictator stage of “YOU are going to put the balls in THIS bucket ALL BY YOURSELF!” If I let either of these statements dictate my mood on regular basis, I would be in trouble.
When children give commands
Instead of letting his words get me too riled up, I generally take Kelly’s advice and realize I need to enjoy this 4 year old for exactly what he is. I need to laugh. That’s not to say I give in to his demands or encourage the use of potty talk. However, trying to let laughter be my default has helped shift my mindset from that of anger to that of love. To accept him for where he is developmentally and enjoy this absurd time in his life.
A few notes on “dictator” children from Kelly:
- the more you give in, the more they will shell out demands
- the more they shell out demands, the more children become unsure of themselves
- children become secretly fearful when they are allowed to take charge of the adult world
- outrageous behavior is a signal that children are begging you for the limits that they need
- children don’t need explanations why you won’t follow their demands
When Keener starts down the demanding track I typically remind him to:
- try saying his request a different way
- consider how his tone sounds
- say please when he wants help
- not talk in a demanding way to children or adults (no one likes it)
However, the more I have been turning to laughter/love, the better it is for both of us. Are these reminders necessary all the time? Probably not. He knows them and chooses to try out the demands anyway. I may pick one or two, depending on the circumstances and then we can do something silly instead. Half the battle is reminding myself that what he is doing is developmentally appropriate and I can choose how to respond. With anger and frustration or with love and laughter?
Vital Signs Exercise
Dr. Eger says to check in with your vitals. To ask yourself “Do I feel soft and warm, or cold and stiff?” To take your own emotional temperature a few times a day. It’s a way to quickly reflect on your inner climate and the emotional energy you are putting out into the world. Dr. Eger so beautifully reminds us, “We’re always communicating, even when we’re not saying a word.”
While it’s not realistic or even the goal to always be soft and warm, I certainly want to try to enjoy my kids more. I cannot control the ridiculous demands my kids may give me, but I can control my response. I can check in with myself when I’m feeling cold and stiff and see if maybe the answer simply is more laughter.
Freedom lies in accepting our whole, imperfect selves and giving up the need for perfection.Edith Eger