September 28, 2016

A Lesson from my Son: Asking for what we Need.


One day in August, my 4-year-old son was in rare form—the complete opposite of his usual gregarious, fun-loving self.

After a day in the park spent playing, riding his scooter, chasing after his sister and friends (as well as a few unsuspecting birds and squirrels), he thought it would be funny to throw his bike helmet into the pond.

As I watched this brand new (over-priced) helmet float out of my reach, he laughed deliriously. In the mid-summer heat and humidity of August in Manhattan, I just wanted to disappear (alone) to an island far, far away. I decided it was time to pack up and head home. He disagreed. He wanted ice cream and justified his behavior by stating it was an ugly helmet.

Our walk home was held hostage by a meltdown of epic proportion—sweaty and tear-stained, with demands for everything from ice cream to silly string.

It took every ounce of my will to stay the course and keep my calm. I told him we were going home for a nice cool bath and dinner, which made him cry even more. All the while, my eldest begged me to give him whatever he wanted, just so he would stop crying. I was told several times that I was a “mean mom.” The walk from Central Park to our apartment, although only half a mile, felt like five.

Half a block from our apartment, he stopped in between sobs and said, “I just want attention.”

I knelt down and gave him a big hug. He immediately calmed down. I already knew this, however I was truly amazed and impressed he articulated this so clearly. I allowed him the space to feel all his feelings and didn’t hush or appease him by giving in to all his demands. This took an incredible amount of patience from me.

Oh, tantrums! They are exhausting and draining and come with the added bonus of unwelcome and unhelpful comments from strangers, such as one lady who stated, “I want ice cream too.” I’m convinced those who make such comments are either feeling uncomfortable or sorry for you.  And let’s not forget the ones who give you the judgey eyes—if you’re a parent, you probably know the look. It’s the one that basically says in a single stare, “Can’t you control your kid?”

During these times, I’ve learned it’s important not to give a hoot about what others think when our kids are having a bad day. When we try to control the situation so others are not affected, it only prolongs the episode, because our stress levels rise. We then transfer that energy to our already stressed out child, and all for the sake of making someone else comfortable? Nope.

When the tantrum bomb goes off, we need to harness all the kindness we have and zero in on what our little person needs. I’ll admit that many times it feels like stepping into another dimension, which requires a ton of patience and focus. I opt to remove them, if possible, and talk to them calmly and quietly—my son especially responds to being held while I talk to him.

Although this was a challenging moment, I have learned by giving him the space to process his feelings and not shutting him down, giving in or freaking out myself. Because I allowed him that space, he was able to ask for what he truly needed.

There are times in parenting, and life, which can be uncomfortable. We need to be willing to let these moments play out.

Sit with it being sh*tty—it will pass.

When we are upset and angry, being able to express how we feel helps bridge the gap with others. The other side to that is being receptive to others’ pain without trying to change or fix it, but instead holding space and not judging them in their most painful expressions. Aren’t we all just looking for some attention, for someone to see us and love us in our most vulnerable and painful time?

A child expressing their frustrations isn’t any different from an adult expressing theirs. They might do it in different ways, but adults have tantrums too. Ever been stuck in traffic? The typical reactions we see here are amazing displays of adult tantrums. However, many of us don’t have the insight or courage to say what we really need in painful moments. Possibly because we are afraid or we haven’t had the space to feel clearly. When we can safely communicate how we feel it really bridges the gap and creates a more open and compassionate dialogue.

These moments are showing us where we could love ourselves more. When we can see how another person is struggling it creates a link of compassion between the and us because we are all mirrors to one another.

Think about this the next time your child, a friend or parent expresses discomfort or pain. Think about how they are showing you a part of them that needs more love and space but also a part of you that needs that too.


“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” ~ Khalil Gibran.


Author: Jenny Medina

Image: Author’s own

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

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