~by Christine Gough
After a rough parenting day, one which involved three instances of difficult transitions with my 5 ½ year old, I typed a text message to a few girlfriends through tears. It has been the first week of summer vacation and as a teacher, the days have been filled with writing report cards, packing up a classroom, saying tough goodbyes, helping my students and my own children wrap up their years all the while hoping everyone has lunches, signed permission slips and clothing that is clean.
This year end frenzy has been magnified due to an upcoming transition in our family as I move from half time to full time teaching. My youngest will start kindergarten and my oldest will be in 4th grade. For better or for worse, ¾ of our family will be in the same building all day for school…we will see who ends up embarrassing who the most come June 2017!
As exciting as this whole shift is, it is a time of deep and oftentimes difficult transition. And in these times of change, it can be easy to dig deeper into the anxiety, the “what if’s,” the fears, the unknowns and spin out of control. But that handy scientific term…osmosis?!? Remember that biological term for the process where molecules can pass from one place to another? Well, it becomes a real life demonstration lesson for our family all too often.
Today it was a building frustration that my children don’t just DO what I ask them to do WHEN I ask them without hesitation or complaint. Instead of responding with patience, calm and lack of charged emotion, I demonstrated the exact opposite. Stressors that have nothing to do with my children took over. Instead of letting their frustrations roll off, I engaged. I got frustrated. I entered into the anger.
In the midst of this moment of complete exhaustion, I typed out that quick text to two girlfriends confessing my own stuck points and frustrations. And even over their phones, they supported me, encouraged me, made me laugh and provided a place where I felt love unconditionally.
One sent me this quote:
Holding space for someone else “means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.” – Heather Plett
It dawned on me that this was the very message our family’s psychiatrist was planting this week as well. As parents, it is our job to hold space. To walk alongside our children, “without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them…” When my boys exhibit behaviors that embarrass me or leave me sinking into exhaustion, I keep hearing a faint voice of our counselor reminding us to not engage and respond with matched emotion. Rather, to take a break. To offer a suggestion or two that has worked for us. And most importantly to listen and hold space for our children where they experience God’s grace and acceptance and support. I am hoping against hope that the few times we disengage, leaving the heightened emotions behind, that we then begin to build the relationships with our children that are only possible with true support.
As we walk into summer, it is my prayer that we can all seek to be space holders for those around us. May we let go of the need to fix others, to change outcomes, to stay closed and to cling to judgmentalism. But to enter conversations and interactions with the goal of open hearts and hands as we listen to and care for others on their own journeys.