Journal Entry

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On children yelling when you wash their hair

(This was in a facebook thread a while back, and I thought I would blog it, and, as so many things do, it ended up hanging around in the Drafts folder. Here it is, shorn of all its original context...)

We have a dual role in our childrens' lives. We are the source of non-negotiable hard things, and we are the source of comfort in the face of those hard things. It is sometimes confusing to inhabit these two opposing roles. But really you get to feel great both about making sure [your kid] has clean hair, and that he has someone near him who loves him when he is enduring hard things.

And, of course, the slings and arrows of the day build up and the kids don't know how to address or release them until some little thing happens -- having to wash one's hair, losing a button -- and that becomes the trigger to let it out. They kids are not actually being turds -- the turds in question are the demons of self-doubt that make us feel bad about being parents no matter how great a job we do (in both roles). The kids are just doing their job in life; mourning the pressing tragedy of the incompleteness of their control over the world. It's often actually doing the kid a favor to impose that last difficulty or limit that opens the floodgates and releases all the day's troubles, especially if we can muster the attention to be compassionate while scrubbing.

Not guilty -- guilt is a distraction from compassion. Amusement is a better accompaniment. And even when we have no compassion and are also dragged down into frustration and crankiness, as long as they can tell that however bad our mood is, we love them, that's more than enough.

(Of course, this was a thread about little kids. My kids are now much too big to allow anyone else to wash their hair! But the principles apply in their own way to big kids, and to adults, too: sometimes we support people best by requiring things of them -- sometimes these things unleash tempests of emotions. If we can stick to our guns and also hold onto a big, compassionate, loving view of the person we are confronting, it is a great and generous gift. This is as true of rejecting a manuscript as it is of insisting on dishes being cleared...)

Posted by benrosen at June 25, 2013 07:19 PM | Up to blog

I think you have a lovely ideology on this. And I cracked up so hard just now picking which type of entity I was! Thanks so much for that much needed laugh. New fan for life! Can't wait to read on down your blog.

Posted by: Janel at August 8, 2013 08:01 AM

Welcome Janel! Glad you liked it, and I'm glad you were able to resolve the existential dilemma about what kind of entity, if any, you are...

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