So K is 2 years old and almost 5 months. We can easily round up to a solid 2.5 years old, development-wise. Meaning he's is IN IT. And as his parents, so are we.
Yesterday, there were some strong feelings (I'm not naming names) about not getting a Clif bar (and really, it was about going to the store, which he thinks is a ritual and I can't say it's not...:S) and then there was some mean things said about not going to the library (I know, really? was I preventing my book-obsessed kid from going to the horrible library AND denying him a Clif bar?? What kind of monster am I? Oh, one who has some boundaries and limitations and can't go to the library or go to the store to quiet a screaming child...but I digress) and it was a rough ride home.
When we got in the house we needed to cool down and take a breath.
Sometimes my husband and I have just resulted to shrugging and raising our eyebrows as a parenting method that loosely translates into, "I have no fucking clue what just happened, but I think some growing and developing is going on and I really don't know how to help him!" I actually feel like I "lose" my kid while he derails and it's heart-breaking to watch him go...and I really can't hold on to him. In fact, the thing I feel that would most help him is this unbreakable hug where I basically use my brute force to keep him from flailing (like a parental straight-jacket). Ah, of course I think that would work...it has for so long, right?...all the strapping him in, holding him close, swaddling, etc. It has worked for a long time...
But upon reflection, I realize that no, that won't work anymore, sadly. He'll separate from me regardless of the intensity of my hugging. That's the nature of our relationship. So how can I make it easier? How can I just stay present while he derails?
One way to do it, is to just literally stay present and have compassion (the "co-" part is key!). Silent, engaged, listening, eye contact, grounded energy, staying there. People will do this thing OVER AND OVER until the moment of our death (the final separation in the physical sense) and we better start practicing it (if we haven't already been).
I can also hold space (or ask for a bigger entity to hold space) while he flails. In a way, I am flailing too. I am also experiencing this separation, right? As an adult, with more awareness, of course, but it's still scary. How do I know he's ready? How can I tell him it's okay? How can I tell him that I am still *here* when we are both obviously feeling this huge difference/shift in our relationship? I don't know, but a bigger presence in the world (God, Mother Nature, the Universe, etc) knows. And so I can (and try to) trust that.
Other than those things (and variations of those things) there isn't much else I can do. I really need to keep clear about that. I cannot really make it easier. It's hard. Just like my parents couldn't help me handle my hormones as a teenager (ugh, what a mess!). I will just not be able to do some things to help. No amount of therapy or books or awesome parenting tricks will work. Separation is the combination of destruction and creation in the SAME moment! It's hard for me and I'm an adult, so it MUST be much harder for this little person who hasn't really had to do it a lot yet.
So in the end, what I am going on about is growing my ability and capability to be compassionate. K is not doing this TO me. He's unable to talk about why and how this is happening and the best thing I can do is to be firm, kind, and present (and maybe toughen up my own skin a bit?). We'll make it through. Billions of people have done it for millions of years. It's survivable. And a little compassion goes a long way...