When we have packed a picnic lunch and find ourselves under a dark storm cloud, with thunder and lightening, it is hard to remember that we need rain for flowers to grow. Yet, the saying remains true, April Showers Bring May Flowers. I would like to share a bouquet with you in the form of a success story. This particular client has been practicing Peaceful Parenting for a while. Notice, I used the word practicing. Like anything we practice, we are developing muscles and skills to prepare us for a big game, performance or time when we put the skills we are honing to the test.
As Alex walked into his 4-year old daughter Dylan’s preschool at pick-up time, he felt storm clouds
gathering. He heard another child crying because they were unable to have a playdate. Dylan, who was studying the scene, turned to Alex with her lower lip trembling and said, “Daddy, can I have a play date today?” Her eyes were already brimming with tears as she watched her friend cry. Alex realized Dylan
was “asking” for an opportunity to release some stored up emotions. He said, “Playdates are a lot of fun. But, we don’t have a playdate set up. I’m sorry sweetie, we won’t be able to have one today. Maybe tomorrow.” Thunder cracked and the rain began. Dylan ran into his open arms and howled into his shoulder. Alex admitted that it felt good to be able to recognize the need behind her behavior and to be able to welcome her emotions.
The clouds parted and a stream of sun shined through as a well-meaning mom, Gracie, stepped up and said, “Marco and I are thinking of going to the park for a bit, would you like to join us?” Dylan’s eyes dried instantly and her face lit up as she said, “Daddy, can we go? Please?” Alex said yes, knowing he had a very tired girl on his hands, who hadn’t finished her cry. He knew those feelings were probably going to appear again in the near future. But for now, the kids were jumping up and down laughing and hugging each other.
Alex said when they met up at the park, he saw the dark sky on the horizon and could hear rumbling thunder approaching. The struggle to hold it together began right away. The kids were too tired to work things out and take turns. As the name-calling began, Marco ran off to have some alone time. Dylan pursued Marco. Alex and Gracie stepped in to help the kids problem solve. No sooner than it seemed to be heading in a positive direction, it began to unravel all over again. When they began pawing at each other like kittens play-fighting and sand was beginning to fly, Alex knew it was time to go. He told Dylan, “Sweetie, it is just too hard for you to play together right now. It is time to go home and try again another day. You are both too tired. Come on, let’s go.” Dylan did not want to go. Alex took a couple of deep breaths and said to himself, “this is not an emergency.” He then went to Dylan, with as much empathy as he could muster, while holding the limit that they had to go. The clouds let loose. Alex then “helped” a flailing and crying Dylan out of the park. He told himself, “she is asking for my help” and remembered that she was exhausted and her behavior was being done in front of him and not to him.
When she had calmed enough to get in the car, Dylan said, “I want to repair my trust with Marco. Please Daddy, I want to repair my trust.” Alex said the clouds parted and he saw a rainbow for a moment. She didn't want to leave a friend in distress. Then, he warned her, “I am not sure Marco is ready right now…” Dylan said, “I just wanna try.” And so, Alex took Dylan back to Marco, who was still at the park and still looking like a little dark storm cloud. When Alex and Dylan approached, Marco was very clear that he “did not want to hear any voices.” At this point, Alex told Dylan that she tried, but Marco just wasn’t ready, and they were going to go home. They got back to the car and Dylan started sobbing. They drove the 3 minutes to their house and she continued to sob.
Alex’s wife Jean, had finished her meeting and met them at the door. Jean was a stay at home mom, who had recently started to work a bit. This meant she had been spending less time with Dylan than ever before. Jean took Dylan into her arms and Dylan continued to cry. Dylan told Jean the story of how Marco would not let her “repair their trust.” Alex heard Jean say, “You are so sad.” Dylan said through sobs, “Mommy, you are always working and you never have time to play with me any more. I never get to spend any time with you and you are always too busy.” Aha! they found the pot of gold. Dylan was getting to the root of her sadness and letting it out. Dylan cried with her mom for a few minutes longer and then, she was finished. The storm was over and negative ions filled the air. She was all hugs, smiles and cuddles. Dylan and Jean made a snack together and had 20 minutes of Special Time. (next month’s subject)
Alex said they had an amazing evening. Dylan helped make dinner, set the table and they were all laughing and relaxed together. Alex said that after her big cry, Dylan was her sunny, loving self without any hint of storm clouds lurking!
As we look back at the scene, we see the principles of peaceful parenting coming to life. Alex was able to stay calm and welcome Dylan’s emotions. This presence of mind, let him see that Dylan needed to “unload” feelings she had previously stuffed. Her father was there to help her manage her feelings of disappointment and regret and continued to welcome her emotions. This created more connection. When they arrived home and his wife was there to meet them, Dylan was able to go even deeper and let out the underlying sadness of missing her mom. Once she touched the root of the feelings and they were witnessed by her parents, the big feelings disappeared. Because her parents weathered the storm by welcoming her emotions, they were able to enjoy the beautiful flowers fed by the rain.