I use this metaphor often. When you flick a tuning fork (that's the technical term, right?), and other tuning forks are nearby, they hum too.
When we're talking about a simple tuning fork, then cool. When we apply the metaphor to our toddler and track our own mama (parent) emotions, then I hate this metaphor. I hate it because it's really true for me right now.
So here's the deal: My lovely, sweet, empathic/empathetic (which one is correct?), brilliant (if I do say so myself) toddler is swearing. Not in a "you don't know what this word means so it's funny" sort of way, either. Like he says, when he gets INSANELY angry, which seems like every other moment, "You Fukid [sic] Mama. You stupid Mama." Yes, It's true. At first it was sort of funny. About three times. And now, since he says it EVERY time he's mad, it's not only way old, but it's actually starting to hurt my feelings. Yes, even though I am an adult, with seemingly tougher skin, this is *hurting* my feelings. What can I say, I feel everything.
It's also an ego thing...when he says it in front of people/strangers I am more upset because I don't want people to think I let my kid say that to me. I hear that people kibosh that in their kids all the time. They simply "shut it down," they tell me. Well, no kiboshing is helping. K says it even when we clearly explain how he can use it (in his room, alone to himself). He also immediately apologizes for it but that's not good enough for us.
I have heard, from MANY people, that if I ignore it, then it (my son's foul language) will magically go away. My intuition says that not only will it not go away, but it's actually important to look directly at it, and NOT ignore it. Well-meaning Parenting Advice, you've failed me again (why do I keep listening??!!)
I have tried all the methods (telling him to go to his room to say that word, telling him it hurts my feelings, telling him that I will not tolerate it, ignoring him and taking a breath/walking away, etc.). But back to the tuning fork thing...
What if he's not the one who's angry, but he's the one who can correctly "tune in" to the feelings around us/me? What if *I* am the one who's angry? What if I am the one who's saying "Fukid [sic] Mama?" If you can, for a split-second, suspend the cultural norm of laughing off bad language and really follow me into this place (I know, it can be scary, but you're not alone, 'cause I'm here too), then when our kids, who haven't been around long enough to really grasp the anger which we see displayed in their behavior, get mad, maybe they are tuning us in to anger that's palpable in our daily lives that we've been ignoring. Or maybe they are externalizing how we are energetically talking to ourselves! So K says "You stupid, mama" and what would it be like if I saw myself telling MYSELF that I was stupid?
This isn't really far-fetched, to be honest. I am angry. And many times I do NOT allow myself the time and space to feel it. Not the way my kid does, anyway. Sure, I try to channel it and redirect it and many times ignore it (hey, isn't that the advice I've been given regarding my kid's bad behavior??), but what if instead, I stared right at it and felt it? Like really let it sink in that I am super angry about stuff? What if I really sat with the fact that I am mean to myself, especially when things feel out of control? Ugh. Then what? There's an awesome prayer that I say 2-3x day that starts like this:
God, grant me the serenity
To Accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
What always chokes me up is not the accepting part, but the courage to change the things I can. Because I *can* change a lot about what's making me angry and how I treat myself. I can change my food, the way I relate to folks, my physical space, my sleep, how I drive, what I watch, what I listen to, what I wear, what I read, and more. I can also "use my words" more. For me, that means more writing, more expressing, more communicating clearly. I tell my son when he's angry that all he has to do is ask kindly for what he wants...well, if I demonstrated that more, then maybe he would too. Ha. I've got me there.
I'm *not* an angry person, I tell myself. I am generally optimistic if you talk to me at parties or get-togethers. But what about the stuff I don't share? What about the fact that I am angry on a daily basis at the state of my home, the state of my health, the state of my creativity, the way in which I treat myself, how others treat me, the way I behave on the road, (I could go on, but you get the idea).
What if my kid is simply, and quite innocently, showing me how out of control I feel? To be honest, if he was participating in Playback Theater, then he would be pretty accurate. I feel INSANELY out of control. And yes, I want my avocados to taste a certain way, I want a book to be written a certain way, I want my food properly salted, I want *only* the songs I want to play on the radio. So is my kid sooooo out of line for losing it every time things don't go his way? How am I teaching him (and me) how to live in a world that doesn't go exactly the way I want all the time?
Moreso, when I ignore it/him or when I try to compromise with him (which really means saying no to what he wants exactly) what am I really teaching? What am I saying to my kid? "You can't always get what you want..." Is that what I mean? What alternatives am I offering? What does he (or what do I) really want, anyway?
Like usual, I don't have the amazing answers. But I know I can't ignore it. I know that I need to work on my anger (even if it's not in front of K, it seeps from me like radioactive waste). I know that when I am not right within, it would be weird to expect him to be right within, since he really is tuned in to me/us. I hate saying this (this, being that I need to work on MORE), because I think I am working on PLENTY (thank you very much) but to be honest, this is what I signed up for. I wanted having a family and a partnership to really bring this (important) stuff into focus. I need the screaming in my face, I guess, to move me to change. I don't really like that it has to be that way, but apparently, that's how I motivate.
I don't know what exactly I can do with K and his language directly. I don't know if polishing in one spot (my life) will make it shine in another spot (his life). I need to turn that over, of course. When I can say that I am dealing with my bigger anger stuff, then I can look at him and see what's ailing him more clearly. But until then, he's probably going to be showing me a lot of the stuff I haven't wanted to look at. I feel compassion for him, but I also know that he's here for a reason too and once I can release him from reflecting me, then he can move on to his own work.