I woke my daughter up at 6am in the morning as usual. Immediately, I saw her phone by her bed, not out in the kitchen where it was supposed to be. I nagged her about it before she was even awake. My thoughts were all focused around her cell phone overuse, my fears of her not being present to her actual life. I was so busy being reactive; I didn’t see her.
I asked her if she had spoken to the school about her parking ticket yet? What she was going to do for a work out after school? Then I was questioning the concert she was going to, and would she get enough sleep? When was she going to help around the house more to earn extra money?
When I look now in hindsight, I can see what a horrible nag I was being. She's old enough to not need me to remind her of everything. Luckily, I realized what I was doing before it was too late and she had left for the day.
I stopped and walked into the bathroom to breathe several times, slowly. I realized my fears had taken over. I was in my Tilly-the-Task-Master Persona ranting one ‘You should...’ after another. It was overwhelming our relationship.
I used my 5 Steps to Connect practices and stepped back, did some self care and owned my part: my stories of fear were driving me. I got out of a threatened state. I stepped away from my tunnel vision of what she wasn’t doing, my judgment of what was ‘wrong’. Only then could I see the whole of her.
Now that I was more centered and not in a 'fight' reaction, I could expand my view to remember she was doing great in her school work, holding down a job, spending time with her friends and even remembering to get a gift for her sister. I realized this was my stuff, old patterns of thinking I needed to do well (be ‘good’ and ‘together’) to be loved and accepted. I was projecting this on to her.
But it wasn’t about her at all.
So I went back to where she was in the kitchen and told her I was sorry I had nagged at her, especially so early in the morning. I told her how I had seen her being responsible about school work, her jobs, taking the dog out for walks and feeding her when we weren't home. How she always gets herself where she needs to be on time. I was so proud of her effort in her community college class; I really saw the whole of her. She smiled, stood up straighter and bloomed.
Why is it so hard for me not to speak from fear? To even notice I am in a Nelly-Nagging mood? I feel a glitchy stomach and tight jaw when I think I’m not doing a good enough job as a mom. When I believe that thought. Underneath is a fear of her not being happy and safe, and the anxiety that somehow this would be my fault. Utter nonsense, but I tell myself this story. I’ve learned that I need to feel the pain and fear and grief. Listen to these emotions’ message of not wanting me or her to make mistakes or fail. I want to contribute to her. I yearn for her to be safe and engaged with the life within her, not numbing pain with her cell phone.
I’m grateful to have the practice of noticing my body sensations, feeling my feelings and noticing my thoughts. Plus the key to connection: having the vulnerability to own my part so I don’t keep directing my upset on my daughter. Connecting with her, seeing her bloom... Priceless.
Learn more about the practices of Emotional Intelligence in the 5 Steps to Connect Framework, transforming conflict into connection in the on line class.