Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gratitude for the Drama by Emily Hall, LifeWays Caregiver and KinderForest Teacher

I have often thought that being a caregiver is the most drama filled work that there is, besides parenting. Getting to a place where I feel gratitude for that drama has been a journey. Let me explain how my voyage from frustration to gratitude went.
When I began at LifeWays, my first instinct was to rescue children from feeling bad. The drama of a tantrum over the minor calamities of life was not what I wanted to see or hear. I'm sure that we've all been at the point of bargaining our way out of a meltdown just for a moment's peace. Giving in is sometimes the solution, for a child's safety and a parent's sanity should always come first.
But. How is a young person to learn gratitude, if not by experiencing their negative feelings? By watching other caregivers just be with a child's frustration, I learned to allow the children to express their rage and sorrow without judgement or rescue.
Sometimes, a child's anger at a situation just needs to be heard. I've been working lately on acknowledgement of feeling.
Here are some recent examples that I am proud of:
Yes, dear, I hear that you are sad, still you must do what needs to be done. yes dear, you're sad because you want to find a rock like his. No, we don't have time to go back. It's ok to cry.
On many days, I feel myself pulling back, wanting to explain or cutesify sorrow away. I still remember Mary and Jaimmie's look of horror when I exclaimed over the adorable-ness of a child's tantrum. Some old habits die hard. As caregivers, our own biographies want to intrude on the future. Our parents' ways of placating, cutesifying, explaining, and rescuing the bad feelings away come out with our own children. With conscious care and a lot of listening, a mindful adult can work towards loving the tantrum. Then, the young person can feel love for herself within the cloud of anger. I love myself, even when I'm angry, she can think. I don't like my anger, but I want to feel better. How can I self-soothe so that I can do that? Learning that the answer is inside me, not outside of me, is a lesson that adults can model by allowing space to discover the answer. And, when necessary, dressing the kicking and screaming child and carrying her out the door to continue her sorrow outside.
Sometimes, only the trees and the child understand. And that's ok. Each little person carries drama filled emotions that as a caregiver, I cannot always soothe away. Receiving those feelings with respect while doing what must be done each day is enough.

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