The challenge was my daughter (4 years old) clinging to me at school drop off, refusing to enter the classroom, insisting I go in with her. “I need you! I want you!” she would cry, and rather than compassion towards her I was noticing my growing irritation.
One day I was squatting beside my daughter on the mat with her classmates… trying to extricate myself with overwhelming feelings swelling inside me. I was losing patience and starting to become passively aggressive towards her. Finally, I got out the door and the tears sprung to my eyes; I was not feeling proud of myself and I knew this was something I needed to bring to my Listening Partner for some listening time.
When we next got together I shared this story and wondered aloud if this was my daughter’s difficulty with separation or my own. My Listening Partner asked me if this reminded me of anything from a time gone by for myself. I found myself saying how scared I was of school and being apart from my mum (a complete revelation to me!), tears appeared, I cried, and then my body started to feel relaxed.
I also talked about going along to my daughter’s swimming lessons at school. The teachers had been unable to engage her to participate even though she loves the water and is reasonably competent at swimming. I was there to support my daughter, but it was a similar situation where she would cling to me and refuse to enter the water. Again feelings of overwhelm showed themselves as growling impatience at her unwillingness to have a go and leave my side, even though I wanted to empathise and I did understand her struggle.
With my Listening Partner I recounted my own fear, imaginings of what others (i.e. parents, teachers etc.) might be thinking of me… I sat in this place of judgement knowing I had my Listening Partners support. It felt oppressive!! In my head I imagined the parents and teachers thinking I was a looney… crazy… permissive… weak even!
At this thought I found further tears and a small voice saying, “I’m not, I’m not!” My Listening Partner invited me to stand up; I felt bigger, more powerful – especially when I understood my Listening Partner (who was on the phone) was metaphorically standing beside me.
I could still envision people looking down their noses at me. My Listening Partner asked me to say whatever I wished to say, to tell them where to go, so to speak. Instead of some fearful, angry voice or physical action coming to mind, I surprisingly engaged with something much lighter and playful. I found myself poking my tongue out, blowing a raspberry as if to say, “I don’t give a damn… I will do whatever I think/feel is necessary”, “ ner ner ner ner ner!”
… what a relief!! It was an immediate lightening of a load… letting go of a burden. Yeah! Who gives a damn what others think!
The next time I found myself with my daughter clinging to my legs, struggling with separating, I was much more able to find the resources I needed to be there for her. It was like a protective cone surrounded me. I was able to settle, to be present to her needs. She was able to move through her fears and have a go.
It is a work in progress, but I am sure that without having my Listening Partnership, my safe place to offload, I would not be discovering I often already have the resources available to be the parent I want to be. The smokescreen of heightened emotions has been hiding this from me; my Listening Partnerships are clearing the way.
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Miranda Fairhall is a qualified psychotherapist, a Certified Hand in Hand Parenting by Connection Instructor and among other things an ‘Aussie’ living in London with her English husband and their daughter. She discovered Hand in Hand Parenting soon after adopting in 2011.
You can connect with Miranda on her Facebook Page.