Cultivating Emotional Intelligence
It was one of those days where everything felt hard.
Getting up was almost human torture, feeling like I must have had a 10-minute sleep, not the 7 hours the clock reported. Getting the boys breakfast was mundane and nerve wracking as every disgusting noise and boisterous interaction they had was an insult to my parenting. Finding clothes and shoes was akin to a buried treasure on an island of chaos, without a map.
They couldn’t keep their hands off each other and every second that passed by was an opportunity to assert dominion over the other brother. The dog was irritating because she was demanding attention in an already overtaxed, overburdened mother. As for the boys, if there was a place I could post them to I would have gladly packed them up and sent them on their way.
My tank was empty but there was no respite. My husband away, and no one to be found enthusiastic enough to take these 4 boys for a little adventure that didn’t involve their mother.
The beautiful thing about parenting is that it invites resilience and stamina, the capacity to keep going even when you think you’ve got nothing left. Just like an endurance event. On days like these, getting out of the house and breaking the cycle of chaos can be a soothing balm to a cranky mother. If only I could get out the door without losing my shit. Of course that wasn’t going to happen, as I was already a ‘donkey on the edge’ (thank you Shrek for such a great line to describe how I was feeling). I got angry and my voice reached fever pitch, demanding the boys get in the car without hurting each other, fully clothed and with some footwear even if it was totally inappropriate for the season.
By the time we were in the car the mood had only intensified, not just between me and them, but between themselves. At this point, they were tied up (ok, not really – they were in their seat belts) and in a controlled environment where they could reach each other but not really hurt each other. This offered reprieve because I knew that at least I would get them to the park alive so they could run their little hearts out and release some of the pent-up energy we were all feeling. I listened to the fighting until eventually it all went quiet. In this space I could relax a little, and so could they. Within a few short minutes, they were cracking jokes and making each other laugh. I marvelled at how quickly children get over things. The emotion comes, gets expressed, and then they move on. As we were driving, I started to talk to my boys about anger, more specifically about what I was observing.
“Boys, isn’t it interesting how anger comes and goes? I was angry, you have been angry, we all get angry at times. I’m sorry for putting my anger on you this morning. I’m sorry if I hurt you. One thing I want you all to remember, no matter how big my anger seems there is one thing you need to know, my anger is nowhere near as powerful as my love, especially for you boys – love is way more powerful.”
The moment where I felt I had nothing left gave way to a moment that was extraordinary. My own humility, wisdom and love came from somewhere deep inside of me. I didn’t see it coming, and yet it opened me to my capacity to grow bigger in that moment. Many times I have reminded the boys that these feelings will come and go – love is always bigger, and it’s ok to feel.
Managing our own emotions acts as a blueprint for our children to manage theirs. Watch out for your triggers, and learn to be ok with your own emotional storms. Children very quickly learn how to press those buttons that release our emotional vulnerability. This is a gift they offer, to promote our own growing up (which is lifelong). Children learn more from who we are and how we do life than from what we say. Our own ego, incongruences and hypocrisy get mirrored back to us through our children. Welcome this, and work with your unclaimed emotions. Own your reactions and endeavour to know better and do better.
Sending you all love for the magnificent job you do as parents. -Tracey
Enjoy the below practice in cultivating your own emotional intelligence – from Byron Katie’s ‘The Work’:
- Notice when your child pushes your buttons.
- Name what you are feeling, identify when you have felt this way before?
- How often do you feel this way? Is there a pattern of feeling this way during a particular set of circumstances?
- What belief do you have that fuels that feeling?
- Is that belief still true, how do you know it’s true?
- What happens in your life when you believe it is true?
- What would your life look like if you didn’t have this belief?
- What belief can you replace the old belief with that might support your growth?