Ted and I took the first of a parenting class series tonight. It was extremely productive, interesting, thought-provoking. The takeaway from this first session that we’re going to focus on this week is, connect before you correct. We have a strong tendency to correct first and relate second, or third, or seventeenth.
As part of the class we did a role-play of a situation brought up by a woman in the class, who has two kids, the older of whom is a daughter and who resents being asked for help in the kitchen after dinner when the younger one, a son, never winds up helping. The teacher asked for volunteers, and as the silence lengthened I decided to offer. So we did one role-play in which I played the mother. Then as a class we brain-stormed some different possible approaches, after which we did a second role play in which we tried the approach that she selected. In that second role-play she played herself, and I played the daughter.
I expected to feel a bit awkward standing up in the front of the class, and to find it funny. I did feel a bit awkward. But when, as the daughter in the second role-play, I said things like, “It’s not fair,” and, “No, I don’t want to come up with ideas, I just want to go to my room,” and the mom, playing herself, was kind and understanding, and said, “Well, tonight I’ll just do the dishes, and tomorrow we can talk about what’s going on and come up with better solutions,” the role-play turned unexpectedly very powerfully affecting for me. Having her look me in the eye and dialogue, hear me, validate my feelings as the daughter in that situation moved me deeply. It brought up feelings from my childhood, as well as feelings about the ways in which I have been unfair to Hazel relative to her two younger sisters. I felt myself get a bit trembly, and then when the teacher asked each of us how we felt about the role-play, as our characters, I teared up when talking about it. I was embarrassed, up in front of a room of people I don’t know.
But after all, parenting IS deeply personal. It brings up our difficult stuff from childhood. It challenges us on so many fronts all at the same time, and Ted and I are taking these classes because we feel we need help, more tools, better ways. Both of us have good intentions, but default to a very authoritarian style, particularly under stress. So we have strong feelings about it already, and I’m not really surprised, in hindsight, that they came up for me like that.
I am very, very glad that we’re doing this, and doing it together. I know we’ll come out of it with more tools than we had going in. I am grateful to have these resources and opportunities to grow and learn, both individually and as partners in this wild enterprise of raising other human beings.