I am a life coach. I teach positivity and spread love and joy all day.
Which means my house is a bundle of fun and my life is perfect. Um – NO! Far from it actually. I am going to share a story that falls on my list of hardest moments of my life. It was the day I read the words, “I think my mom hates me”.
First, a little backstory. This recent two-week Christmas break was by far one of the more challenging ones I have had. I run a growing business by myself, my kids were home for two weeks, I was hit hard with emotional grief, and as much as I love my family, it seemed as though the gatherings were never ending. I had forgotten about being present and instead just bought a bunch of presents. You want me to be in the moment? Okay which one because there were way too many of them! Self-care? Wait, what is that? How do I take care of myself when I have a million messages and things to do and two kids that want every part of me? And then add being cooped up in what felt like a cage for days because we live in the Frozen Tundra – that does not help anything. Yes, I had completely lost it. You wouldn’t have known, of course, but my husband and kids sure did.
The two week vacation couldn’t have ended soon enough. I needed space. I needed routine. I needed peace! Well that sure didn’t happen! I was free from the holiday chaos and then turned and created my own. Not working for two weeks sent me into a tizzy and I went into freak out mode. I neglected self-care and dove into work and put the gear in overdrive. I justified it all. I needed to catch up. I needed to make up for holiday overspending. I needed to tend to my clients. I needed to keep things growing. I needed to help people. And then it happened. I didn’t slow down so the universe did it for me. It stopped me full on in my tracks so I had no choice but to do nothing but lay in bed or run to the bathroom. I got hit with one of the worst stomach bugs I have ever experienced.
After about 12 hours, my fever broke and felt well enough to get up. I stepped out of bed and there it was on the floor – a notebook filled with pages of my child’s handwriting and the words screaming out at me, “I think my mom hates me”. My hands started to shake, I squinted to see if what I was reading was correct.
I picked up the notebook and paged back and forth and back and forth. I can feel the conflict in my body as I type this. A deep, dark pit in my stomach. My heart so heavy, my head starting to spin. ‘I am failing as a parent’, I though to myself. The night before my son, Elliot got in trouble and the situation escalated to an argument between my husband and I. Our son wasn’t listening and we were frustrated. However, we weren’t frustrated with Elliot but with ourselves. We had a difference in opinion in regards to parenting but we were actually transferring our frustrations onto each other. Yes, our child wasn’t listening but we screwed up, not him. We created this and all of this came through as I read the list of things I do that upset my son.
We have taught our children some of the tools we teach in our Transformation 101 class. We encourage them to write and draw out their feelings because oftentimes they don’t understand what is happening or how to explain it. After Elliot got in trouble he went into his bedroom and cried. It was a cry like we haven’t heard before. There was more to the cry than what he was disciplined for. That is when my husband told him to write down what he didn’t like and how it made him feel. Here are some examples of what was on the list:
“When mom is on her phone and says just a minute, I feel like she cares more about work and not me.”
“When mom doesn’t cuddle with me anymore at night, I feel like she doesn’t like me.”
“When mom is late for pickup, I feel like she doesn’t care about us or want to see us.”
“When mom is busy with work, I feel like she doesn’t want to be with us.”
“She used to do so many fun things. She stopped playing music in the morning and doing dance parties. She only says I love you when we leave.”
“Her job is to help people get happy but we aren’t happy anymore.”
“I feel like she hates me.”
I read those words over and over. My body was so weak and the only energy I had went to the tears streaming down my face. I sat there thinking, “Kerry, how could you do this?” “How could you let this happen?” This is what I teach people about in class. The conditioning we experience as children directly effects our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves. We learn negative thinking. We learn to judge ourselves and our worth. We learn feelings of guilt, shame, fear, frustration, and anger. I was teaching this to my son all through my own behavior. This is called conditioning.
My husband and I have been very mindful of trying not to pass on the conditioning we experienced as kids. We don’t want our children creating beliefs that they aren’t good enough, their parents don’t love them, or it’s their fault that we argue at times. Unfortunately, because I neglected my self-care routine, I got out of balance and didn’t even realize what was happening until it was too late. Fortunately, all of this came to fruition sooner than later. Later that day, my son gave me another list. This one was longer than the first and it was written in the most perfect handwriting. The list was full of all the things he loved about me. What I didn’t know is after Elliot expressed his emotions and cried it out, my husband had him make a new list of all the positive things. I wasn’t supposed to see the first list, but I am glad I did because now I can be even more mindful of my actions.
When I picked up my kids from school that day, I silenced my phone and put it in my purse. I created boundaries in my business regarding my access and availability. I have reached out for help and am delegating work. I turned the speakers back on and music now plays loudly throughout the house. I greet my kids with smiles again and playtime is now on my calendar daily. Bedtime is fun again and I remember how much I love to cuddle. Dance parties happen spontaneously and often. We are bouncing back into balance and as hard as the experience was, I am glad it happened.
I decided to share this story and offer you a tool to help parent in a positive way. After this experience, I decided to create a worksheet to help you combat conditioning. It will help your child express their feelings as well as help you become aware of your behaviors and the influence you have on your child’s thoughts and feelings. Here are examples of my children’s:
See below examples of this printable in action from my wonderful kids, Teya and Elliot: