My life has been punctuated with paradox...contradiction...with what I like to call living in the tension of two opposite ideas at the same time.
Wanting to be healthier yet doing almost no exercise? Yep.
Know that an excess of caffeine will only increase anxiety but still drink coffee like it's water? That too.
Encourage others to reach out for all the help they can get but get too stuck in my own pride to do the same? Sigh.
Want to accept my children for who they are but still freak out when they're not living up to my standard? Oh...right.
I've always maintained that the largest distance in the entire universe is the gap between knowing something and actually doing something about it. Yeah. That would be me, anyway.
Last weekend Nick and I went to our second Parenting in SPACE conference in the Chicago area, put on by House Calls Counseling. To my friends who have adopted and whose children *may* have experienced trauma and/or attachment challenges, YOU NEED TO GO THIS CONFERENCE. AND I AM A TOTAL DOLT FOR FORGETTING TO TELL YOU ABOUT IT BEFORE NOW.
SPACE is an acronym for how do "do" therapeutic parenting. And it's like...based on actual research and stuff...imagine that. You can learn way more than I could even try to tell you by visiting House Calls' website, and/or buying or renting this AMAZING video by two people who have become so very dear to me in the last two years.
At any rate, I like to break SPACE into two parts: S represents what I need to provide as a parent, and PACE represents who I need to be as a parent...or, as I am slowly realizing...as a person in general.
In brief, then, S stands for providing Safety, Structure, Supervision and Support to my kids...and PACE directs me to be Playful, Accepting, Curious, and Empathic with my kids. I have it hanging on a cupboard door in my kitchen, but I'm toying with the idea of having it tattooed to my forehead. Seriously. Okay, or not.
This year, the Accepting part of SPACE is what most resonated with me during the conference. At one point, we were in a small group, talking about some of our fears...like...you know...that people will LOOK at me when my kid is having a meltdown in public...or just runs away from me laughing...and that someone might be JUDGING me too...and oh crap...what if they come up and actually SAY something to me about it??? Oh nooooooo! (Insert sarcasm here...but still...those ARE my fears...because hey--fears aren't always rational, are they?? Hmm...and I wonder if this EVER applies to my children...and now insert suspiciously raised eyebrow here.)
Yeah...so...our super-awesome group facilitator Rick astutely pointed out that when/if someone does offer "advice" or other opinions about our parenting/situation/kids/insertyourownthinghere, it's because THEY are uncomfortable. It's about them. It's not about me in that moment. We're ALL programed that way--we HATE being uncomfortable--we are wired to JUST MAKE IT STOP FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND RIGHT PLEASE JUST MAKE IT STOP ALREADY! when confronted with something that makes us squirm. And I don't know about you, but I NEVER try to do that around other people. Because, you know...I'm totally perfect and completely accept all of my junk and baggage as my own and am SO self-aware that I NEVER fall into the trap of doing something as silly as projecting my own discomfort onto someone else. Nope. NEVER. NEVER have done that. NEVER doing that with my kids, either. Because I am the universe's answer to the perfect parent.
Yeaaaaah. And I never use sarcasm, either. And if you believe that...I've got a bridge to sell you in....oh right.
So, even though Rick was helping us realize that other people's stuff...is...crazily enough--THEIR stuff...he was also helping me realize that my stuff...is...yeah...my stuff too. It's about ME in that moment...how uncomfortable I am. It's not about my kids in that moment at all. When I lose it on my kids, it's usually because I'm worried about something...the evil mind trap of WHAT IF's. But what if this means they'll become a criminal when they're older? What if this means they already ARE a criminal? What if they hurt someone else? What if this is as good as it's going to get? What if I'm messing them up further? What if they never change? What if...what if...what if....
I have the sneaking suspicion that Rick knew exactly what he was doing.
Because those moments are opportunities to practice being accepting. Accepting my child in that moment, exactly the way he is, and also...[gulp] accepting myself in that moment too. With all of my anxieties. With all of my fears. With all of my imperfections and flaws. Yeah. That.
I wish I had a neat and tidy way to wrap this all up, but I really don't. Because like I said at the outset...my life has been punctuated with these moments of living two pretty opposite things at the same time. I accept that I'm not very good at acceptance. But I'm doing it anyway. And I'm pretty okay with that. Most days. Because...love.
And...this, which has been my life quote for a very long time now...and yet I am still trying to live it every day: