The first couple of weeks after I came home from my week at school were a bit rough on my girl and me. We kept trying to reconnect and not quite making it. There were a lot of tears, from both of us, feelings of rejection and being misunderstood.
I felt frustrated because she would say she wanted to do this or that with me, state that we just weren’t getting enough time together, and then when I would try to play whatever game she requested, or the do the thing she wanted, she would get angry if I asked too many questions or didn’t do something or the other exactly as she wanted.
Or so, that’s how it looked on the outside.
My feelings were hurt yes, and yes I was frustrated because I too wanted desperately to reconnect with my daughter. I wanted to play and be silly and have fun. I put off doing housework and business work so that we could have time together.
I knew how her heart was hurting. I knew that her lashing out both had everything and nothing to do with me. I knew that her survival mechanisms were trying to protect her from further separation, further hurt. I knew that in oh-so-many ways she wasn’t really in control of her reactions–they were primal, coming up from her reptilian brain.
I persevered. It was hard at times. There were moments when I started to slip back into my reptilian brain also, times when my feelings were hurt so deeply, times when my frustration would start to get the best of me and I would start to spiral into anger.
In those hard moments I would find my breath, find myself. I would remind myself all I know of attachment. I would remind myself all I know of development. I would remind myself how her “rejection” was stirring up my own childhood wounds of rejection and abandonment and while my response was triggered by her it really had little to do with her. I would remind myself I was the parent, the adult.
Most of the time this worked. Not every time. There was repair work I did over the last couple weeks too, apologizing after cruel words slipped out of my mouth, giving lots of hugs and snuggles, listening to heartbeats, tickling and playing and finding ways to get us both back into the present moment.
Today my girl and I played a game she made up. It was something like hockey, but somewhat different. We played in the garage with a ball and some tree branches, she led the play and I followed, adding in questions and comments and saying “I’m open” or “I need to pass” on queue. It was fun and I felt like we deeply connected while playing. My girl’s eyes were so lit up and I could see how excited she was that here we were playing a game of her own creation.
This parenting thing changes us, fundamentally. I’ve shifted and adapted and grown to love play, something I once avoided at all costs. I had read Lawrence Cohen’s Playful Parenting (which I highly recommend to all parents) and I intellectually understood the value and power of play, and yet my body had so much resistance. I have used a timer to help me move past my anxiety, to put limits that my brain and body could handle, to ease play into my experience, into my body, into my heart.
As time has moved forward I’ve found myself enjoying play more and more. I’ve left the timer behind. I’ve opened myself to the deep connection my daughter and I have. More importantly I have come to accept her beautiful unconditional love.
Accepting unconditional love from another person is terrifying, overwhelming and powerful. When we are able to accept the love of another we are opening ourselves to healing our past hurts as well as opening ourselves to the possibility of future hurts. It is the fear of the the potential future hurts that blocks so many of us from accepting love and kindness from others. Fear stops us from deeply feeling the love each and every one of us is meant to feel from another or to experience the profound joy that comes with the experience of that love.
These last two weeks I have shed tears and held my girl while she shed hers. I have examined my own reactions, repaired when appropriate, owned my own shit, and understood and empathized with where my girl is in each moment. And while we didn’t play Barbies yesterday due to her own frustrations and primal defense mechanisms, we did play a rousing game of something like hockey, but not quite, today, where we both laughed and played, where we felt connected and understood. I accepted my girl’s love and she accepted mine.
This is where my growth and transformation is. In the accepting. In the acknowledging. In releasing my deeply internalized myths of not being worthy or good enough. In moving through the fear. In loving another and deeply breathing her love for me, finding joy and peace in her love.
We find our transformation in our relationships. We find love, peace and joy through our connections. We heal and repair our broken hearts by moving into vulnerability and allowing others in. We love and accept love as though our very lives depended upon it. Because quite frankly, they do.
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