Click below for the audio version of this message.
No one ever told me how hard parenting would be. Everyone seemed to play up the joy and love (which for sure is true) but they failed to warn me about the shock, fear, disappointment and downright despair I’d soon feel.
They also failed to warn me about how painful it would be to watch my children get bullied, snubbed, and feel depressed and alone. It’s all so very uncomfortable.
While in a Bikram Yoga class several years ago, a drop of sweat dripping up my nose reminded me of the incredible discomfort inherent in parenting. Let me explain…
Bikram Yoga is the hot, sweaty, often smelly kind of yoga that can make you feel dizzy and nauseous or strong and alive and often all of the above. It’s an intense 90-minute workout and meditation that has taught me so many things about myself and my parenting.
One thing I learned from Bikram Yoga is that in life, I would do just about anything to avoid discomfort: both physical and emotional. If it was chilly, I would turn the heat up. If my child started to cry, I would try to stop it. Or if, while in an inverted pose, a drop of sweat started to run into my nose, I would wipe it away. Makes sense, right?
One day during yoga class, as I bent my head over in an uncomfortable inverted forehead-to-knee pose, I felt a drop of sweat begin to roll from my upper lip toward my nostril. Oh, it’s an uncomfortable feeling! In the past, I had always wiped that sweat away, knowing that water in my nose was definitely something to avoid. Water takes the place of air. I wouldn’t be able to breathe. It would taste bad. At minimum it would be irritating. It was enough to wipe that drop away.
On this particular day, however, I felt the sweaty drop getting closer and closer to my vulnerable nostril, and I just let it go. Right in there. I did nothing. And do you know what happened??
Not much. No catastrophe. No gasping for air. I sniffed it up and it was gone. Poof!
Ok you may be wondering where I’m going with this story. I’ll get to the point now…The drop of sweat represents discomfort.
My kids are also capable of making me very uncomfortable. Like when they cry incessantly over stupid little things. Or when they get a “C” when I know they’re capable of better. Or when their friend says something unkind to them. My instinct is to wipe it away — to do something to remove the discomfort — both theirs and (maybe mostly) mine.
But I have learned something by tolerating the discomfort and allowing it to just be there: It’s almost never as bad as I think it will be. The tears eventually stop. The natural consequences teach lessons that would otherwise go unlearned. The hurt feelings dissipate. My kids learn coping skills — they bounce back. And so do I!
I’m not saying that as parents, we should never step in and do something. Not at all! In many cases we should step in. But many times I think we step in too quickly, robbing both ourselves and our kids of the lesson that whatever it is, isn’t as bad as we thought it was, and that we are both stronger than we think.
Can you think of a time when you didn’t (or did) step in and “wipe away” your child’s discomfort? What did you/your child learn? Please share your thoughts!