The saying goes “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” What I wonder is: can I help Gracelyn learn that which I am still very new at learning myself?
At one level, the obvious answer is “yes” because we can be students learning alongside one another. My real question then is how to foster her growth in an area where my own current behavior may model precisely what I don’t want her to mimic.
Learning Compassion with Oneself
When I make a mistake that is really upsetting for me, I generally do two things automatically:
- continue to regret my behavior by obsessing on it in my mind
- judge myself as bad and shameful
Take the example of what happened the other day when getting out of the car to go to the library with Gracelyn. Normally Gracelyn gets into the baby sling and I carry her into the library. For some reason she didn’t want to go into the sling and let me know this by stiffening her body and making non-verbal protestations. I could of heard her communication and simply carried her in or let her walk with me. Instead, I repeatedly attempted to get her into the sling and then the ergo carrier while “reasoning” with her that her wriggling was dangerous (I could accidentally drop her) and that fussing was uncalled for (She “should” just do what I wanted was my demand). She got more and more upset and finally I carried her in my arms while justifying my behavior to her as we walked. YUK!
While I realize that such parental irrationality, controlling, and plain jerkishness isn’t the worst behavior in the world, treating my beloved daughter in this way is FAR from how I desire to be with her. Thus once I regained my sanity and compassion, I felt horrid about how I had behaved and had a hard time letting go of the experience. I repeatedly replayed the incident in my mind, cringing at my behavior, feeling embarrassment and shame, and fearing that I’d harmed my daughter forever.
What I Want to Learn and Teach
So here’s the problem. I want several things for Gracelyn when it comes to making mistakes.
- I want her to know that mistakes are totally normal and totally acceptable
- I want her to know that our behavior is a choice that may or may not reflect our best self in any given moment
- I want her to know that she is ALWAYS and ALL WAYS loveable even when her behavior isn’t what she or others desire it to be
- I want her to be self-reflective enough to change behavior she chooses AND compassionate enough to be gentle with herself when she discovers behavior she doesn’t like
The good news is that I know what I want for Gracelyn and I know that I want this for myself as well. The challenge is that the model I currently set for her isn’t the one I want her to follow. So I guess that means that for our mutual benefit, my current opportunity is to start changing the way I am with myself when I make a mistake while also doing my best to help her form a different habit from the start.
“If you must love your neighbor as yourself, it is at least as fair to love yourself as your neighbor.”
~ Nicolas de Chamfort
BTW, since I’m in learning mode, feel free to share any wisdom you have on this subject (maybe the learning can be accelerated that way). 🙂