A lesson in humility and empathy

This week I had a lesson in humility from my eight year old and four year old.

It was the end of the day and I’d been in on-line meetings all day and had also battled with some frustrating run-ins with technology. We’d just eaten dinner together as a family and that had gone remarkably well.

I knew I needed to get out and get some exercise.

As it had finally stopped raining I suggested to my eight year old son that we go out for a walk-run. We walk for a minute, run for a minute for ten to fifteen minutes. He likes it because he enjoys timing us and is much fitter than me. I always struggle to keep up with him for the running part which he finds funny.

At the last minute my four year old decided she wanted to come along too, instead of hanging out with her dad, and she grabbed her scooter. We headed out to the park and all was well. At first.

However, as we went through the park my daughter saw the skateboard ramp at the edge of the playground in the distance and wanted to go there to scoot. I said no. She protested. I continued to say no, that this was a short trip to the park for a walk-run, not a playground trip.

In truth, it was heading towards her bedtime and I was calculating how much I wanted to get them both to bed and have some time to myself.

I held my ground and we were in a full-on standoff. We made it home but we were both furious. As soon as we got in the door I shouted at her that I was really angry and I didn’t want to take her again next time if she’s going to yell and scream when we don’t do what she wants (oh, the irony!). She stormed off to her bedroom in tears of rage. I went and locked myself in the bathroom to calm down.

My son ran upstairs and I didn’t try to stop him.

Having taken some deep breaths, I felt calmer and when I came out of the bathroom, both of them were stood there waiting. She looked both bashful and cross and immediately blurted out, “Sorry mummy”. I thanked her for saying sorry.

I could tell she was still angry though as she wouldn’t look at me.

So, I gathered myself and asked, “Were you disappointed and frustrated when I said you couldn’t go to the playground?”. She nodded. “Did you really want to go?”. She nodded again and fresh tears came.

I said that I understood she really wanted to go and at the same time this was a short trip to the park just to do a walk- run. I explained that I felt frustrated when she didn’t accept that.

Next, I asked her, “how did you feel when I said I didn’t want to take you again?”. “Sad”, she said. “I didn’t mean it.”, I replied. “I was feeling cross myself and I said something I didn’t mean. I’m sorry. I would like us all to go to the park together again and maybe one time we can all go to the playground and another time we can just do a walk-run. What do you think?”

She looked me in the eyes and a big grin spread across her face.

“Shall we go and have pudding now?”, I asked. “Yeeeesss!” she yelled and raced back downstairs.

I said to my son, “You superstar! What did you do to calm her down?”. He looked very pleased with himself and told me, “I listened to her and got her to do rocket breath* and she did it funnily and we both laughed so she did it four times and she calmed down. Then I asked her if she wanted to say sorry to you and she said yes.”  I gave him a big hug, thanked him and we headed downstairs.

I was in awe of this boy who hates it when people get angry and shout.

He had the wisdom and kindness to see what his sister needed and to help her out. And he’d come to my help when I’d run out of emotional resources. I felt hugely grateful.

This morning I was still feeling guilty so when my daughter came in, I apologised to her again for the unkind thing I said and she replied, “It’s OK mummy I know you didn’t mean it, you’re still a child of God.”

 

*Rocket breath is a breathing technique we learned on a parenting course that helps young children to calm down.

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