So here’s the thing: parenting isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of people in the world who have made a conscious choice not to have children, and do you know why? Because parenting is hard. Really. Freaking. Hard. If you have children you are aware of this being simultaneously the most rewarding and difficult mission of your entire life. These little people are counting on us to model what it looks like to be a thoughtful, productive, loving, accepting, intelligent, responsible, and respectful human being, and help develop in them those same qualities, all while managing a myriad of emotions in them and ourselves. (Gasp! Take a breath, that’s a long sentence and A LOT of pressure, I know.) We can practice all the yoga and meditation in the world, and our children will still test our patience until we finally crack and totally lose it at some point. For me, that point was this Monday morning, the first day of school. But it didn’t turn out all that bad…
My son Jackson is eight. We’re past the diapers, the clumsy (and ridiculously adorable) toddler stage, learning to add, read and write, the frequent temper tantrums. His personality is developed, his teeth are all falling out and growing back too big for his cute little face, and he is growing out of his shoes faster than I can buy them. We’re in the phase where he is getting older and asserting himself and his presence in our household. He tests his limits to see what he can get away with; what works and what doesn’t work. We want our children to be assertive, but we want them to remain humble as well, and there’s a fine line between using your voice to state what you want or need and having a sense of entitlement that is far surpassing your age and your means.
Humility and gratitude have been quite a theme lately. We can’t walk into a store without Jackson asking for at least two new toys or types of candy that he couldn’t possibly need any less, and then arguing with me when I say no. He also has a reputation for losing or breaking most of the new toys he does get. This weekend his 17-year-old brother spent $100 of his own money on a new drone for him, and within three hours of owning it he flew it off a 9-story balcony to crash it in the street. I’m well aware that accidents happen, but this wasn’t his first rodeo with a drone. Trust me when I say he knew better. And after he gathered the broken drone and brought it back upstairs, he had the audacity to suggest that we just take it back and get a new one. It genuinely had made no impact on him whatsoever.
The next day was the first day of Third Grade. I fully intended to wake up early, enjoy a nice breakfast with Jackson, take some cute pictures, write a sweet note for his lunch box, and send him on his way. However, we both woke up late and still tired from a full weekend at the beach, so instead of having a leisurely and happy morning of preparing, I rushed to make him an egg sandwich and pack his lunch while he reluctantly got dressed. As soon as he sat at the kitchen table, he said his sandwich wasn’t hot enough, so I heated it up for 30 seconds in the microwave. Of course he then said it was too hot. I was beginning to get frustrated as I looked at the clock. He stared at the Mickey Mouse cup full of orange juice before him and with utter disgust asserted, “You didn’t listen to me. I said I wanted to get rid of this cup. I’m not drinking this.”
Yes, we had talked briefly a few days prior about this cup being a part of the things he had outgrown and eventually making its way to the donation pile, but this was just too much. A million thoughts raced through my head. “Are you kidding me?! Do you know how many starving kids in the world would love to have a cup of cold orange juice right now?! IS THIS REALLY HOW I’VE RAISED YOU?!” But none of that could come out of my mouth. I was literally at a loss for words. I stomped over to the table, picked up the cup, and before I could even think any further, leaned in closer to him and went full-on cave woman to let out the loudest and most primal yell imaginable through my teeth. My eyes just about popped out of my head as I poured the juice down the sink. Then he looked me dead in the face and said “I’m not eating.”
I lost it. I used two hands to grab him by the arm and lift his 62-pound body out of the chair and push him in the direction of the hallway, while I very resentfully said, “Fine. Go brush your teeth.” But my action caused him to trip on the area rug and fall on the floor. He looked up at me with wounded pride and in disbelief he started bawling. He ran into his room. My heart sank. I felt like a monster.
After a few minutes for both of us to calm down, I went into his room and convinced him he should eat so that he wasn’t miserable in school until lunch. His dad showed up for pictures and it triggered more emotion. I kneeled down in front of Jackson and apologized for overreacting and his dad and I explained to him that the behavior he had just displayed was absolutely not okay. He buried his head in my chest and gave me a long, heartfelt hug, and we scurried out the door to snap one quick photo before he and his dad took off for the school day. I still wrote that sweet note for his lunch box.
I knew I needed to meditate as soon as I walked back inside. I grabbed my daily meditation book, doTERRA Forgive oil, and raw obsidian for quick healing. I turned the book’s pages to the day’s date and found this: “The Power of Your Words” and “The Gift of Anger”.
Little coincidences like this aren’t just coincidences; they’re angels if you ask me. They help reveal your truth. And my truth at the moment was that my words hadn’t served me, and my anger got the best of me. I began to think about what I had read. What did my anger want for me? It wanted me to raise a humble and grateful child. When I was shown that I was missing the mark in teaching him these qualities, I became angry. But it wasn’t his fault. He’s a product of his environment; an opinionated consumer at eight years old. And it wasn’t my fault either; they don’t give out take-home guidebooks in labor and delivery and I’m doing the best I can every single day.
I dropped the oil in my hands and inhaled, rubbing the excess on my chest. I held the obsidian tightly. I decided on a mantra for my meditation and began repeating, “I forgive myself… I forgive myself…” Time passed and as I began to come out of the meditation I noticed that without even trying, my mantra had effortlessly become “I am forgiven… I am forgiven…” I felt relieved.
Jackson ended up having a really great first day. And a dear friend and mentor of mine assured me that I am a good parent and hadn’t done irrevocable damage, pointing out that for every one bad memory Jackson may have of me, he has at least ten good ones. Later that night when we said our prayers I asked God to help me remain peaceful even when I’m really frustrated as a parent, and without even being prompted Jackson followed by asking God to help him be more grateful for what he has. Man, do I love that kid. And that’s just it– love. It’s the basis of all of this. Even the root of anger is based on love or a lack thereof. If your anger is about a lack of love, it’s still the love you want. It all comes back to that. Sometimes you just have to be in the dark to find the light. It’s okay for you to be right where you are. So hold space for your anger– it may end up being one of your greatest teachers.
Co-founder, Holding Space