Leaders, there’s plenty of lessons for you here too.
Parenting is not a science even with all of the advice, books, workshops, guides, formulas we are often figuring it out as we go. Whether we know what we are doing or not there are many things happening whether we want them to or not. We are feeling things. We are being triggered by old wounds, we are reacting on auto-pilot, we are repeating the patterns of those who raised us and we are having physical responses inside of us.
For my leaders who decided to keep reading, sound familiar to you too?.
These are all things that I slowly discovered once I began my journey of trying to be fully conscious and wide-awake to the experience of being a mother. In the beginning, this was an exhaustingly fascinating experiment. When my sons would behave a certain way, let’s say talk back to me if I told them to do something, then I would react with “you don’t talk back to me,” a phrase from my mom’s African American Mother Code book that existed in pretty much every African American household. Actually, this is an example of me using the abbreviated version of that phrase, the original is much longer and way harsher.
You know there’s no actual African American Mother Code book, right? Just phrases that were used in every African American household I knew, and they freely flowed out of my mouth whenever I was triggered by one or both of my sons. Now I know from life and experience that we are not the only culture to have a code and phrases. Stop right here and right now and just name a few for yourself. If you are Filipino, Jewish, Jamaican, Italian, Puerto Rican, shout ‘em out! And if I missed your culture, shout yours out with pride right now too!
Using these phrases came naturally without even thinking about it, because I had not only heard them come out of my mother’s mouth over and over, but they were collectively reinforced by a village of moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles and even children when pretending to be parents to their dolls or younger siblings.
My first assignment to myself in conscious motherhood was to begin to notice the reactions. As I moved on to the work of questioning the reasoning behind the reactions and peeling away the layers of fact from fiction, I began to challenge myself to dig deep into the feelings that were rising up when I was challenging my son’s behaviors. As I began to be present with those feelings, I noticed that while there were often a myriad of feelings, there was one that was always at the party. Fear.
Fear can draw a crowd like the best celebrity host. As I consciously sorted through the crowd of emotions like tired, annoyed, frustrated, embarrassed and angry, it seems I was always making my way toward sitting with fear. When you do this work, you are going to have to confront how much of your reactions are fear-based. Unfortunately, even with all the reasons we have to be fearful, we need to face the realities of how parenting and leading in this way don’t produce the best results.
For you as a parent and/or as a leader, this is the beginning of traveling down a very long road of getting inside of yourself, it’s an excavation and an exploration of why you really say and do the things you do as a parent, what are the roots and whether or not any of it makes any sense to you and is bearing any real fruit. And that is deep, exhausting, scary, frustrating and mind- blowingly liberating.
This kind of exploration is about revealing what is truly behind your actions, reactions and responses in a way that your children can understand.
Sometimes when we are really present and able to calm our way through the storm, we get to do it in the moment. Most of the time, it is after we have blown up, stormed out or scared our children and ourselves half to death that we catch it and seize the opportunity to come clean. This is a time to say, “Let me tell you what just happened here. I blew up at you because…” This is where you share your discoveries of the real reasons, the feelings you are sitting with, the historical and even hysterical roots of this reaction for you. But of course, this is if you even want to go this route.
As a parent, we always hold the trump card, the power and authority card. We hold that same card as leaders. We can play it anytime we want to, but the trump card doesn’t always win the pot. As a card player I know there are lots of times when I put that card to the side and go for the bigger win.
What’s the bigger win here?
Deep conversation, better understanding, a laugh, a hug, a sigh of relief, a knowing nod, acceptance of my apology, a satisfaction that at least I was honest, a strengthening of the relationship and a desire for all of us to do better.
But what about you? Is this a way of being that you want to embody? If so, I invite you to start exploring right away.
It’s hard and it’s different, but you can do it!