There are many things I have learnt about the world and myself since becoming a parent. One of those things has been how important it is to form strong, loving connections with your children. This pure connection not only helps you bond with your child, but can also be used when your child feels painful emotions such as anger, frustration and powerlessness which can often result in tantrums and aggression. Last year was a stressful year for my family with a pregnancy shrouded in severe morning sickness and hospital trips, a last minute move when I was 7 months pregnant and temporarily moving in with my parents, and welcoming a new baby. From this came feelings of powerlessness, frustration, sadness and anger. Unlike adults, young children do not have the physical brain develop to process these feelings in a safe manner. Instead they can become aggressive or withdrawn. My 3 year old son experienced both of these.
During my pregnancy I was so unwell that I was basically bed-ridden for 8 months. Unable to move without feeling nauseous and needing to vomit. The most saddening side effect for me was not being able to spend the quality time with my son that I used to. Then when his little brother came along, he was no longer the only kid on the block and I needed a couple of months to recover from the birth. This plus all the happenings mentioned above, is too much for any person to handle, let alone a 3 year old who doesn’t completely understand what is going on. This has lead to temper tantrums, aggression as a means to exert some control over his life and most recently nightmares.
I know how important pure connection is to any relationship, especially that between parent and child. By pure connection I mean the type of connection you make between people where all parties are completely present with love, compassion and empathy. Once I began to feel better post birth, I said to my son “Would you like me to play with you?” He got so excited. So excited in fact that it was way better than Christmas for both of us. Now when I say “play” my form of play with my children is that it is completely child-directed play. That is, I get my son to tell me what to do and I follow his lead. By doing this I am putting him in control and it helps to counteract the feelings of powerlessness.
We did a lot of wonderful things together; built towers, read books, raced cars. The one thing that stood out to me the most and reminds me every moment how important it is to spend quality time with the people we love, is when my son said this to me during our play session:
“I love playing with you Mama. You haven’t played with me in….forever.”
It was one of those bittersweet moments where I felt so much joy and love from spending time laughing and playing with my child, to realising the guilt and sadness at not having done more of this over the past year. While I remember the last time I played like this with my son - which was before I was bed-ridden with severe morning sickness - my son couldn’t. This felt devastating to me.
What I learnt from this experience is that there is nothing more important in this world than the pure connections and relationships you form with others, particularly your children. The relationship you have with your child sets up how their future relationships will look. I wish for my children to have relationships filled with respect, compassion, empathy, love and joy. By embodying these values in my relationship with my children I can help them have healthy relationships in the future.
In the past I have sometimes felt irritated at being interrupted by my son when I was doing something. However, after this recent experience I am willing to drop what I’m doing to spend time with him because children grow up quickly and I want to form memories of pure connection with my children. The housework can wait, the phone can wait, the book can wait, the yoga can wait, even this blog can wait. All those things will still be there half an hour from now but that moment experience of connection with my children won’t. As human beings we change from moment to moment, and no more so then in childhood.
Going forward my highest priority is to continue to embrace pure connection on a moment-by-moment basis. Where it isn’t necessarily planned but rather authentic; as it arises moment-by-moment.
What has been your experience when you step into pure connection with your child (or any other relationship in your life)? Leave a comment below, I would love to hear your experience.