It is my tendency to want to fix things. Broken things. But also things which cannot be broken, like uncomfortable situations, heavy emotions and people. My two year old tests me on this issue multiple times a day. He is a sensitive soul, feeling everything to its deepest possible level. I have the deepest admirations for his courage to feel it so deeply then move on. I am trying to learn from him. But in order to learn, I need to accept it as a viable way of being.
I often find myself trying to make him feel better in some way. I used to say things like ‘you’re alright,’ which is anything but reassuring. I have been growing my ability to distance myself from his emotional whirlwind, so that I can be present with him rather than his emotional state. I need to be able to fully listen, empathize with his feelings, and just be there to support him through the process. When I try to step in and minimize his reaction or impose solutions to my perception of his ‘problems,’ I am sending the message that I am not valuing him, his emotional state, or his own resources. When I put it this way, I can make a strong connection to the contrast between conventional gardening and forest gardening – stop fighting what is already there, what wants to be there, and work with it instead.
Rob and I have come to the conclusion that our disagreements usually happen when we aren’t showing up for each other. Most often we get bristled when we feel the other hasn’t heard what we are saying. Compassion and empathy needs to come first. Full listening. Once we feel we’ve been heard, it’s much easier to have our ideas challenged from a place of security and safety in our relationship. When I’m constantly cutting Rob off mid-thought to try and interject my own ideas or solutions, I am doing the same thing I do to my two year old. Rob is well spoken and very willing to venture into conversations of self-awareness, offering me insight into how my behaviour impacts those around me. I also know that when I have a problem, I don’t want advice unless I ask for it. I just want to be met with empathy and compassion.
I have been following the work of Janet Lansbury for a while now. She is an educator for an early childhood development strategy known as RIE (Resources in Infant Education) that was developed by Magda Gerber. The main idea of the philosophy is to make this connection between the world of adults and children; treating small children as human beings with capacity and capability. Limit setting happens in similar ways as it would with friends or adult family members. The work of RIE reflects the permaculture principles so frequently that I find myself nodding when I read posts on Janet’s Blog. I love her resources, because sometimes it is just so hard to shake myself out of the habitual role of being a teacher. I am also finding connections abound when I think through RIE as an approach to being with people, not just infants. We all have an inner child that needs nurturing.
When I am trying to fix a problem for my children, I am only taking away their opportunity to learn how to fix it themselves. I have shifted problem solving to them, offering suggestions when asked for, or when there is a stalemate. I have come to know that there is no need for me to be their teacher; people don’t learn skills by being told what to do. Our home has shifted focus, now centring on communication. There are still fights (hitting, snatching, and the like), but now the kids are learning through each one. They are having to navigate the reactions of the other person involved and have to respond to that information by coming up with solutions that work for both parties. Similarly, when I try to minimize an emotional reaction, I am failing to recognize it as a vehicle for learning. When I fail to nurture my child with presence through an emotional reaction then I’m making it about me.
In an effort to unfix the urge to fix, my new mantra has become, “I don’t need to fix this/it/him/her/me“