“Hey!” I look at her with my head slightly tilted down and a devious smile, sometimes furrowed brows depending on how much sass she needs from me. “I said NO SMILING!!!!” She cracks, then erupts, I smile and then exhale. Inhale. Then exhale. Immediately we’re taken down from Code Red to Code I Enjoy My Daughter Again.
Do you ever use that reverse psychology phrase “don’t smile!” on your kids? I do. One of my daughters has a lot of feelings; a lot of really strong feelings that mostly lean towards the angry end of the spectrum. When I can’t seem to crack her with love or logic it’s is my go-to phrase, it always works.
This morning I woke up angry. No, that’s not true. I awoke happy and ready and early. Only after the eldest daughter woke up the younger daughter, who then woke up the baby boy was I angry. The day slammed into my face before I had my 10 min of centering and praying, and I was pissed, a notch above angry. No amount of love or logic could snap me back to reality. Imagine a big, angry, hungry, mean troll sitting in the living room stewing in resentments at the bouncing, noisy, wonderful monsters pulling kitten tails and mashing scrambled eggs into the rug. (I’m able to speak with a filter of amusement and love over them now, but such was not the case at 7am.) That was me. I tried positive self talk, I tried reminding myself of the Truths: your worth is not determined by how well-behaved your kids are. Your worth is not determined by whether or not you are peaceful and joyful. You are a great mom and your kids adore you. You are a good woman. You make bad choices, you are fallible, but YOU are not bad. Didn’t work. I tried praying, didn’t work. I tried yelling and threatening and waving around my big troll stick, things got worse. Breathing works a little in a pinch. This morning it didn’t.
Then I remembered hearing about a type of meditation/breathing exercise where one inhales, then exhales with a smile. I tried it. I cannot begin to describe how hard it was, disgusting is almost the word I would use. So forced, so fraudulent! For a split second I contemplated giving up, explaining to myself that the day was just done already—at 7:10am. You’ve done everything you know how to do, nothing is working, so stop smiling already, sit in your troll chair, and eat, and yell. Today, these feelings are absolutely facts. I’ve learned though, that the bad feelings I want to run away from are the exact ones I need to grab onto and wrestle around until I’ve stared into them and then honored with a “good game” and a high five. I looked over to David who was sitting holding the baby with the other two hanging off of him, “I just tried this breathing technique,” I explained, “where I inhaled and then exhaled with a smile, but it was SO HARD. I want to be angry. I don’t want to choose joy and love. Why is it so easy to stay angry and so hard to smile?”
“Don’t smile!” He replied, head tilted down a little and brows furrowed. I cracked, and then erupted.
How hard it is to choose Joy and find Love!? How hard it is to believe that the God of Moses, Jacob, and Mother Theresa is big enough to crack into our shitty days and cause an eruption of love so deep we don’t want anger, fear, or anxiety anymore?! It was embarrassing to tell David that I was actively choosing darkness, but then he got to shine his light of love onto it! Code Red, to Code I Enjoy My Daughter Again, to Code This is a Good Day.