Thursday, March 19, 2015

Becoming Superhero

My son has a favorite caregiver at the Y. If she's there, we have no problems at drop-off. If not, well, you know.

Just yesterday as I was signing him in, a young father was dropping off his two children. She, as usual, welcomed them with cheerfulness and made the dad feel secure in leaving them. He happened to ask her about her own family and she shared that she had three daughters, all now young adults, and that she was close to all of them. He asked her her secret.

"The key is not to react. Just to listen, to respond as well you can and to make it clear that they can come to you for anything."

"Even in the teen years? I'm kinda worried about those. " He said.

"Especially in the teen years. You might even find you like them." She said.

Not to react, huh? Challenge extended, Carolyn. Challenge extended.

You see, I am not a big fan of drama. Some days the second my son wakes up I know we are in for it. The look in his eye when I enter his room, the tantrum while he is still in the crib because I did something unknowable wrong when I walked in. The audacity of my intent to change his diaper and attempt to put pants on a toddler. All these things can start our day with drama. I've found when it starts that way, it rarely gets better. My firstborn wasn't quite this challenging in the drama area. Clingy? Sure. Had his own share of challenges? Yup. But the colossal tantrums are a new thing for me.

I was sharing with a group of women who I have become close with over the past months how some days I just wake up and I already dread the day. I fear the tantrums. I plan every move two steps ahead in order to contribute to as few as possible.

And to be honest? I HATE that I do that. I hate the dread, the fear, the pre-tantrum walking on eggshells.  I was having trouble relating just how my brain feels when he is screaming at the top of his lungs and a friend sent me a post by Momastery that nailed it.

"My first instinct is to freak out. My first instinct is to remember that yes, this chaos is proof that I have ruined my life and the lives of everyone in my home and that we are a disaster of a family and that no mother, in the entire history of mothers, has ever been forced to endure the drama, decibels and general suffering of this moment. My instinct is to tear my clothes and throw myself on the floor and bawl and cry out worthless declarations like “I can’t TAKE this anymore!” My first instinct is to allow my anxiety and angst to pour out like gasoline on a raging fire and indulge in a full-on mommy meltdown."

Yup, that's it. Even if I am rational and calm and ready for it, that's where my brain goes when things get so loud that I can no longer think. Her solution was to put a smiley face on a paper bag and try to defuse the situation by wearing it on her head. I tried this but quickly abandoned ship when my son mistook it for a punching bag.

SO, I felt like it would be helpful to begin to find ways to help my soul handle this phase. Everyone assures me it won't last forever and I hang on to that promise with a white-knuckle grip. In the meantime, strategies.

I recently heard about a study done in Psychology Today that looked at a person's body posture and it's relation to the relative power and control one feels. If it were possible to find an image of a female superhero that didn't look hypersexualized, I'd go ahead and post that right now for us all so we could have a nice image in our head. Suffice it to say, that ain't happening.

The byline of the article says this: "Stand like a superhero, feel like a superhero, act like a superhero."

I should backpedal for one moment in case some of you are worried I'm about to delve into some kind of argument that super-parenthood can exist and that you will be plunged into deep wells of self-loathing and feel terrible that all you can accomplish during the day is keeping your child fed. 

Rest assured, I don't believe supermom or superdad exists.

This is an argument for something else entirely. 

This is an argument for posture.

At some point, as I mentioned earlier, I began to dread our days together. I'd wake up defeated. I tried getting up earlier than him and spending time in scripture and prayer and reading. I like to do this anyway. But, like many toddlers, he has radar. I swear, he KNOWS when my alarm is about to go off and will wake up one minute before it just to cause the most amount of damage to my psyche possible. So, sometimes I can get up before him and read in peace and feel ready. Other times, I have about 4 minutes to get my self out of that bed and get my head on straight before it's a full-scale screaming meltdown from the next room over.

So, I began to wonder if this study might impact my mornings a little bit. What if, especially on those mornings when I didn't have time to truly prepare myself, I became a superhero? Just for two minutes? The study just proposes that putting oneself in a stance with open posture will do what you need, but it's a lot more fun for my husband to stumble in on me in my jammies, hands on hips, legs apart, shoulders back and chin pointed up a la Superwoman. Our bodies are amazing - if we stand like this we get a rush of testosterone and we actually feel more powerful and in control. If we hunch or cringe in a closed posture? We feel stress. So my curling up into myself in dread was actually causing my body to create extra stress before I even walked in his room. Helpful.

So, for four days straight now, I have become superhero. Just for a few minutes. Just before I go in to get him. 

And you know what? Whether it's the placebo effect of expecting to feel different or because this works, I have walked into that room with my head held high. With confidence that we were going to have a good morning. With cheerfulness and readiness and hope. With fewer stressful and chaotic emotions banging around in me and a better well of patience with which to respond. And he has responded to that. We have had fewer tantrums. He has followed some directions (a very new thing for him) and we have laughed together more than we have in a long time. 

This is no small thing for us. 

My son actually did sleep in a bit this morning giving me time to spend time with God and then write this. But before I hear him calling upstairs, it's time to go stand up straight for a few minutes and get my morning dose of superhero. 

Is it time to go get yours? 

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