I love to listen to my kiddos- to really listen.
(Most of the time- the opposite is also true and sometimes I ask them to stop talking!)
A favorite stage of development in each of my kiddos was eighteen months to two years when they really started telling me things using their new words! How fascinating it was to watch them discover ways to talk and tell me about their world.
One of my teachers, who shares information on working with trauma, says that’s how we reclaim our disowned parts we’ve been talking about the last few weeks, we make sense of the story of us.
For me, telling stories is a vital part of making sense of being human – it’s one way I can organize my experiences and share that with my loved ones, especially when I need support.
Learning how to listen to my children was about understanding the story at two different levels.
Of course there is the more obvious one, that we’ve all learned to pay attention to in our world- tone of voice, words, meaning and conclusion. I hear how it is for them. I can ask for clarification, and for them to share more where I sense it’s needed. I’m gathering the information so I can speak to them in their language and understanding of the moment.
But this was the new part for me and I imagine it might be a new concept for you too? That there is also a feeling below the words. The words are the conduit for the feeling. My child is turning to me to share the energetic charge of their feeling, and if I practice, and am skillful enough, some of the times I am able to enter their feeling world, their experience while meeting the feelings and supporting them there.
It is a more profound way to be in the moment with them.
For example when my twins get into an argument, often one of them explodes on the other, and I rush to the sound of crying and screaming, someone is usually holding their injury tenderly while the other stands there befuddled at the energetic charge that just coursed their system.
This is where I have the opportunity to slow myself down, pause even, and really listen for the tender feeling that is being transmitted through the words of the story. It’s the part that wants to be seen, heard, and understood. So I love my child’s story, and I’m simultaneously looking below it for this deeper energy that drives it.
I’ve been practicing this for some years now and it takes a few minutes of visiting with the words, the story- loving my child and their attempt to organize their experience and share it with me for support, before I can attune with the feeling and meet that energy, first in me and then in them.
I hear “he hit me!” and “she was making a face at me!”
I feel a heat in me- I hear inside my own experience a voice saying, “I hate it when they fight!”
Taking a deep breath I put my hand on my heart… whew… I say to all of us from my big hearted self- “I hear you! And it sounds like there is a lot here, I am here.”
They each take turns with their side of the story- I tune into my experience for clues.
I’m feeling powerless to get them to stop fighting, no matter what I do, they still fight.
I speak to the sense of powerlessness in all of us- “sounds like you really couldn’t change your circumstances to be the way you wanted, how was that?”
They each tell me a piece and usually they’re already coming down from their big emotional charge. I’ve done the work inside me, in that moment and many, many practiced ones before, and chatting with me seems boring and uninteresting. They’re more interested in getting on with their next exciting piece of life. We’re grounded, the energy is resolved.
If I met them at the story only- and ran with the energy in the form of words, and telling, and conclusions, without first taking it into the feelings realm, the story still charged with all the emotion (and I had lots of years like this before learning how to truly listen) I would barge in and make my own sense of it all based on the words they were telling me.
Hitting is wrong and bad! Are they ever going to get this? And stop fighting? I would overpower my own sense of powerlessness. I would organize us in the direction that best suited me to stay away from this and other vulnerable feelings and unowned traits. I would add my two cents to the lines of feelings loaded story and we would amp each other up until there was often yet another explosion- mine!
It always felt bad to land us back in this place of having powered up around the story, rather than meeting what was tender at the center.
I notice in my parenting this can happen with the ones that feel good too, just like we’ve been talking about owning your own brilliance!
My son came home one day and said to me, “Mom, someone at work wants to meet you!”
Confused, I asked why. He proceeded to tell me it was because of his demeanor, presence with kids, and general work ethic. This person had come to the conclusion it was because of his parents. Maybe? Maybe not, too? Of course that felt good inside to receive compliments and praise, but it was his story, he was the one in the moment.
I feel some bubbly sensations in my chest- I hear a voice inside saying, “good job Mama!”
I put my hand on my heart and turn to see him smiling with joy and pride!
I asked him to tell me more about it? Who was this person? How was it for him? What did it feel like to be seen like that? I turned it back to him.
I met his sense of pride and accomplishment without making it mine. Of course, I was celebrating with him about all of his hard work and success and yet talking to that feeling rather than the story lines supports him to organize towards how he knows and feels himself in the world.
So try it this week! Talk to the feelings. When your kiddo brings you a story, get curious about what feeling is there. Hint: you may be feeling the same one in you, so talk to it too!