Sunday, March 10, 2013

Seeing Through the Spit in My Eyes

In this series of posts, I explore my personal challenges with each of the principles of unconditional parenting. These personal accounts run in parallel with a series of information-based posts where I explain each of the 13 basic principles of unconditional parenting as described in Kohn's book, Unconditional Parenting. Want to start from the beginning? Click here for the Introduction to Unconditional Parenting with links to all posts in the series.

This post is related to Principle #5: Change How You See, Not Just How You Act
Photo credit chevalgal of stock.xchng

I had a parenting breakthrough. One of those moments when apparent disaster turns into gold, right before your eyes. When you see yourself go from wits end to rejoicing, when you see your child go from deranged fellow to gentle sweetness held in your arms. 

It happened when Munchkin started spitting at me. On me. In my face. And laughing about it. Then, when I got upset about it, he'd say "I won't spit anymore" then turn around and do it again, giggling hysterically. Not seeing clearly, I initially succumbed to the very visceral reaction this stirred in me. Degradation. Deceit. Humiliation. I yelled. I even had the urge to punish him. That intense urge was so eye-opening that I knew I had to dig deeper. What was I missing? What did I not see?

I knew that he was imitating an aggressive child he'd had recent contact with. I knew that he had a stockpile of emotions to unleash. I knew this isn't how my son normally behaves, even when he's acting out. Still, in those trying moments I failed to see anything but a mean little boy who was treating me hurtfully. I failed to see the son I know. That blindness was more painful than any emotion I experienced from being spit on.

Then I rediscovered Playlistening. I opened my eyes and took a new look at this little spitter flailing in bed next to me. Instead of a little sh*t, I saw a little boy who wanted to connect with me, but who didn't feel quite comfortable enough to do so. I saw a little boy who needed my help, who wanted to be close. The next time he splattered me, I turned on my game face.

"Is there a sprinkler in here? Hey, it got me in the eye!" I let the game continue for a few minutes before I set the limit. It was bedtime so I had an easy out.

"OK, it's time to stop that game and settle down," I told him gently but seriously. He stood up, giggling. I brought him down with a firm embrace, saying I gotcha, I gotcha. His resistance subsided and we fell into bed together. He let out a few wimpers and whines, then rolled over into my arms and fell asleep within five minutes.

As I lay there smelling his hair, my eyes were open. 
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