Have you ever experienced something torturous with your own child? Listening to my son read was torturous. It's hard to admit and doesn't feel good, but I would sit there as he struggled to focus on the page and/or figure out what the words were. My mind would start to wonder. Why is it taking him so long? Why can’t he just read? Why does my kid have to struggle? I hate that he struggles to read. He is so far behind. I just want him to be able to read and learn. I don’t want to see him struggle. Why can’t he just enjoy reading like his father and I? I am a fucking teacher, how did I fail to teach him more earlier so that this wasn’t a problem? I failed.
Whoa! Pump the breaks. Time to check my feelings! I had to get curious about all of these feelings. My distractedness and frustration about what was happening had caused a level of extreme irritation to well up inside me. It was about to bubble over and be projected onto my son! Okay, reality check, it already had. I was giving him the words instead of letting him figure them out. My tone of voice was in a negative space. I had turned my son’s struggle into my problem and my fault. It was time to figure out why this was causing me so much frustration.
I got curious and began to ask myself questions. Why is this bothering me so much? I have worked with lots of kids that struggle to read. Why is it so frustrating that he struggles to read? I am a teacher, I should know how to teach my kid how to read early on. Why? Teachers’ kids aren’t immune to being born with vision difficulties and learning disabilities. This is the way he was born, it is not your fault. You didn’t cause this. Why him? Why me? I hate this for him and for me. I do this all day long at school with my students, why do I have to have a kid that needs this special attention too? Why are you making this about you? This is not about you. This is not about your struggle. This is about your child. What does your child need? He’s probably just as frustrated as I am. He needs compassion and patience. He needs to know that this isn’t his fault either. He needs to understand that he is different and that it’s okay. He needs to have confidence that it may take him longer, but he will get to where he needs to be. He will be okay. I need to give him my patience. He deserves my patience and compassion. He deserves a loving tone of voice and time to figure out what works for him. I need to let go of my expectations for him and what I think he should be like. I need to just be present with him and let be what is. My frustration is coming from my fight against what is. I cannot control what is. I can only control my actions in response to what is. I need to be the patient teacher with my son. I need to stay present in our reading activities and mindfully use what I know to help him. I need to be patient because I know this will take time. I also need to see him as a strong reader. I need to recognize his love for stories and his strong ability to pay attention to the pictures and to think about what he is reading while he is reading. I need to love him for the reader he is now! I need to focus less on the gap that exists between the reader I want him to be and the reader he is now. Focusing on that gap is what is causing so much negativity.
I sit up a little straighter and lean in towards him and smile. I know that changing my physicality can impact my mental state. I say to him, “Wow, I love how you pay such close attention to the pictures! You really work hard to figure out the words you don’t know right away, without giving up! I love that!” This immediately nourishes both of us into a happier state. My energy has moved into a calm state and therefore so does his.
This is what it means to be mindful and present in my thoughts so that I can resolve these conflicts within myself and be more peaceful! Getting curious and feeling through our emotions can help in many ways. Next time you are feeling an overwhelming emotion, try getting curious about it. Don’t brood on. Our emotions are connected to thoughts, our bodily sensations, and our impulses. The more we just think about it, the bigger and deeper it will get. So don’t brood for a long time. Name it. Get curious, look for what brought it on. Look for evidence of the opposite. Breathe. Nourish with the evidence of the opposite or with the idea that whatever emotion you are feeling and whatever difficulty you are experiencing will not last forever. Nourish yourself with the idea that you will be okay. Talk to yourself like you would a child, maybe your child. “It’s okay my love.” Overwhelming depleting emotions are going to happen. We are all bound to find ourselves in these stressful and torturous moments with our children or loved ones. We need to be able to love ourselves back to a place of peace.