UNLOCKING US – Episode 8 July 2020
“The ability to love our children for what they are, and love every bit of them – the strengths and the struggles.”
After listening to this podcast in my bedroom on my blogging chair – one of these days I really need to include a picture of this brilliant blogging chair that I claimed as my own early in my blogging career – I left my bedroom and walked into the dining room. I caught Ella hanging out at the kitchen table and decided to run some of the principle discussed in this podcast episode about motherhood and about the shame-prone child versus the guilt-prone child, past her. She is a thinker, my Ella. And I was genuinely curious what her thoughts were on these things.
“My job is to say, ‘I see you and I love you. You are so deeply worthy of love and belonging. Here is what I know about moving through this world.'”
What does that even mean? What does it mean to “see someone”? And we looked at this a little bit yesterday. Remember the volunteer trying desperately to make someone literally SEE them? And it could be literal or not.
But Ella gave me examples that made me consider “seeing” someone, literally, as more important that I’d originally thought. I got thinking about the power of literally “seeing” someone, or the message I share by intentionally or unintentionally not “seeing” someone.
- In a meeting, when someone was speaking that I had been hurt by in the past, I didn’t want her to have an impression that I thought what she had to say was valid. So, I intentionally didn’t “see” her. I looked at the chair in front of me, I looked at the paper in my hands, I looked at the other people in attendance, anything to NOT look at her – to NOT see her.
- Sometimes, when the children try to talk to me when I am looking at my phone, I try to answer without looking away from my phone. The message I am communicating is that they are not as important as whatever is on my phone. I don’t “see” them, literally.
- I remember seeing a woman at a table in a local restaurant. She was talking with an older woman. The conversation seemed to turn into a chastisement, from the older woman. The younger woman’s posture was down and in. She refused to SEE the older woman. She refused to look into her eyes. And then the older woman almost literally forced the younger woman to “see” her. You can imagine how well that helped the situation. See yesterday’s post, again.
I want to think more about how to “see” my children. Last night one of the children was lying in bed, crying. I came to them and I cuddled them, and I asked how they were doing. The child said, not angrily, “No one seems to ask me how I’m doing until I am already crying.” I had not “seen” this child! My first instinct was to say, “That is totally how I feel. It’s kind of how it goes.” But that wouldn’t be seeing them anymore than ignoring them. Instead, I sat, for a long time, scratching this child’s back, letting this child cry and talk and cry some more.
“We can never raise children who have more resilience and awareness around shame than we have.”
How often do I “see” me, and validate me, and show compassion on me, without judgement? Can I say to myself: I see you and I love you. You are so deeply worthy of love and belonging. Do I love myself for who I am, and love every bit of me – the strengths and the struggles?
Am I an example to my children of what that looks like?
I think it’s an active practice rather than a destination – loving and accepting oneself. It is not something that we do, but something that we become. Rather than looking for new things to do to love ourselves more, consider how we do the the things we are already doing, and how to do those things in a loving way toward ourselves.
Example: Today I have to go pick up a trumpet for Jono for Christmas. Now I can think to myself, I have to do that, ugh. Right? Or I can think to myself, I really want to do this. This is important to me. I’m thrilled we found a trumpet for Jono that will work for Jono. Doesn’t that feel way more loving to me? And if I can’t get there, what about, I am choosing to do this, because it is important to me. My family is so important to me. I love what we have going on.
Either way I am picking up that trumpet, right? But I would want to choose to see myself and my desires and my plans, with love. And love myself and the plan I made for myself.
Is this making sense?
Another example: I like to make breakfast for Bryant and the children every morning. They don’t ask me to. They would probably prefer cereal, truth be told. But it is important to me. And it is usually enjoyable for me. But sometimes it isn’t. I am okay with that – I am okay that some mornings I am tired. Nothing has gone wrong. I am no less worthy the mornings I am tired and slow and maybe even grumpy about making breakfast. I am no less worthy the mornings that I decide not to make breakfast at all, but let the family fend for themselves. I love me. I love that I make breakfasts. I love the music in the background, and the smell of fresh pancakes and hashbrowns, and I like that I get to choose what the children start their day with. And when I don’t love it, I love that about me too.
I want to talk for a minute about normalizing shame. This is an idea that Brene teaches in this podcast – one that I hadn’t thought much about before.
“I didn’t have a house where I could ask.”
Brene talks about hairy toes. When she was a teenager, a few hairs started to grow on her toes. And she was scared that it wasn’t normal – that she wasn’t normal. She didn’t feel like she had anyone she could ask, so instead, she went to the local grocery store and bought Seventeen Magazine, to see if any of those girls had hair on their toes. Guess what. They didn’t. And Brene fell into shame.
“Those moments of shame, I didn’t have the ability to reality check those unattainable BS expectations. I didn’t have anyone I could talk to.”
My college roommates really offered this to me. Normalizing my monthly period. Normalizing hair on my toes. Normalizing emotional roller coasters. Normalizing sex and talking about sex.
Karina, my hairdresser in Manhattan, normalized trichotillomania for me. She had a front-row seat to my shame, every time I went to get my hair cut. She said to me, so kindly I nearly cried, “Rachel, everyone has something. Be glad that this is yours!”
I want to, where I can, be a safe place for my children can turn to, in their shame, to normalize their shame. But I know it won’t be me every time. I am so grateful for the loving influences in my children’s lives, who step in where I am not a normalizing influence.
You are deeply worthy of love and of belonging.
“You deserve to ask for what you need.”