Yup, this is a thing. And, certainly a thing I know how to do. Generally, I can bite my tongue and find a different way to address an issue but sometimes I can’t and either I just intentionally give my unsolicited opinion or I unintentionally just piss a kid off with what I’m saying.
I’m super far from perfect.
Your child may be an adult now, but when they’re talking with you about big, possibly painful issues, you’re likely interacting with a younger part of them that can be emotionally reactive. And, then it’s easy to revert into that parent/client interaction, which often (read: never) doesn’t go well when they are in their 20’s! This, my friends, is a steep learning curve.
That’s what I did tonight. I failed to understand her side of the situation because for both of us, we were looking back at past interactions. he was asking me to let go of the past and look to the future and I wasn’t ready to do that.
A little of my college psychology comes in handy here: When we have emotional wounds, they occur on the right hemisphere of the brain, where we store experiential memories, and when those stored memories are triggered, the right hemisphere of your child’s brain will likely become engaged, reigniting those old feelings of ‘fight or flight,’ that they might have felt in the moment from the past. This is why those emotional reactions may seem inconsistent with the intensity of the actual interaction or topic.
While I suggested to her that she have grace for her dad and I regarding this particular issue, I didn’t practice my nonjudgmental acceptance for her experience. I talked and I didn’t listen.
I need to apologize and I’ll do that tomorrow when I’m not so tired and don’t have the dog crawling all over me for attention. My apology should be sincere and transparent – authentic. I need to recognize my own defensiveness and fear – which is not an excuse but just is part of the equation.
Importantly, and before I sign off of this topic, I need to forgive myself. I’m not perfect. I’m not a perfect parent, I’m not a perfect partner nor am I a perfect dog babysitter. Look, we can be good parents and still unintentionally hurt our child’s feelings. Even the “best” parents make mistakes … and who are those “best” parents anyway … ??
I cannot change or rework the past. She can’t either. And, maybe we both need grace and forgiveness. A former therapist of mine once said, “Forgive yourself for not having the foresight to know what is now so obvious in hindsight.” I’ll have to take that one to the bank tomorrow. 🙂