TALK IT OUT
We love our babies. That is a truth that lives in the depths of our hearts and will forever remain in our souls after we pass. That is truth. We sacrifice our health, sleep, money, our homes, friendships, careers, and hell, even our sanity for these beautiful extensions of ourselves. And my goodness, can they get under our skins! After a long, productive day at the office or home, we await their arrivals from school with open arms only to be met with the attitude of a prepubescent teenager! He is only nine-years-old…not twelve, not sixteen…but nine! The sass, the rolling of the eyes, the talking back, the interjecting when I am speaking, the sarcasm…
Oooh, Mama’s let me tell you, there was a moment where I could have smacked him on his mouth, backhanded, all Bangladeshi style with the way he retorted to me saying that he will spend our time during lunch speaking with his mama! Lucky for him, I do not believe in hitting children. These moments are the ones I fantasize locking myself in the pantry to not have a complete The Real Housewives Of Atlanta moment on my kids.
So here is how it went down: I dropped them off on a cold and rainy morning for Sunday school. In the process of getting both my seven-year-old and nine-year-old, my youngest asked if we could go to First Watch, a local restaurant, for lunch. Truth: Sundays at First Watch will be a minimum of an hour wait. Truth #2 It is rainy and cold. Mama hates both. I say okay. On the way back to the car after picking them up, my eldest inquires of our plans and I told him where we were going. His response? “You didn’t bother to ask me if I wanted to go there, and I don’t. So, I’d rather you take me home.” My response? Deep breath, raised an eyebrow followed by the infamous twitching under my left eye. I also shared with him that his brother has requested it, and I would like to go as well, and if he would rather not eat there, he could sit there and bear witness to our feast. We both laughed and tried to put it past us. He was pushing my buttons as he has for the last two days since he returned from his father’s home. We get my youngest son and waddle our way through the rain to our car. Once settled and driving, my eldest then asks if I brought my work cell phone with me so he can play games or watch YouTube while we eat. I responded that I did not, and they will just have to speak with their mama like in the olden days. Insert evil laugh…Bahahaha (they are not allowed devices during meals in general). His response? “Why would we WANT to speak to YOU?”
I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
Little man should thank his lucky stars that I was driving and needed time to get to the location and find parking which gave me time to breathe and desperately cling to the truth of what was happening. My son is lashing out, yes. He is also utilizing deflection as a defense mechanism because I am his safe person. Deflection in psychodynamic theory is described as an event in which a person experiencing a negative emotion caused by someone of importance, will transfer that emotion to a safer target. This is done to avoid painful memories, thoughts, and emotions, but it also prevents the person from being self-aware. In this case, my son was responding to an incident that took place with his father but lashing out at me. Understanding what is truly happening beneath the teenage surface of angst and emotion helps dilute the sting of rejection that I experience, but it hurts nonetheless.
Just because I understand where this behavior is coming from, should it be excused? The pursing of my lips and rise of the challenging brow just contemplating this tells you, the answer is no. Drawing attention and highlighting a child’s behavior is grooming them to become self-aware and secure individuals who can communicate and handle conflict in a healthy manner. Every opportunity is a chance for us to guide our children to become their best selves. In this specific incident, I brought both of my babies to the front seat after I parked the car. It was raining cats and dogs, as though the heavens were responding to the raging sea of emotions my son’s response elicited within me…cue evil laughter… Bahahaha. I explained in a steady, stoic voice that we needed to talk. This immediately will strike fear in any who knows me. Habiba, when emotional or animated is still manageable, but once there is complete silence… RUN…run far, far away! I explained to both my children, this will be my last warning as my tolerance for their attitude is dangling on a fine line. I expressed my concerns using the secondary emotion. This is not the “go to” or primary emotion, which in my case, is usually anger. Even the babies will tell you when mama is scared (such as the time someone cut us off on the interstate and almost took off the front bumper with the children in the backseat), mama seems angry. When mama is hurt (having been told I am not good enough), she seems angry. Similarly, when mama is disappointed, she seems angry. As humans, we focus on the secondary emotion such as anger which is primarily a distraction and a protective effort to mask our true emotion: hurt and rejection. Exposing the secondary emotion reveals vulnerability, and that is what those who care for you will respond to. I expressed to both my children that dismissive and sarcastic statements such as these imply that mommy is not valued. Immediately, my children were able to empathize and feel accountable for their actions, and we spent the remainder of the day being loving and nurturing to one another.
The one thing we as humans crave is the connection between us and the object of our affection. In attachment theory, it is that connection when offered unconditionally, that leads to healthy and secure relationships. My children apologized for their behavior and spent the rest of the day making it right. How? Well, that is a topic we will cover in the next post. But until then, my advice to you, Mama, is to take a deep breath in and out, talk it out with your children, and remind yourself deep down: You’ve got this, Mama. They are your children after all, and beneath all their pre-teen and teenage foliage, attitudes, and slang, they love you immensely.
Habiba Jessica Zaman-Tran, NCC LPC has a master’s degree in professional counseling specializing in trauma and is a therapist and the owner of North Star of Georgia Counseling. With 15 years of work experience in the counseling field including counseling advocacy, guidance, and education. She believes that as awareness of one’s fears, perception, desires, and strengths increase, one can make successful life changes. Self-awareness by becoming more honest with oneself, can initiate the authenticity that often results in healing, transformation, and living a fuller life. She has 9 publications that started with a children’s book published in 2012, But I’m Just Playing, and her latest, Beautifully Bare, Undeniably You due to be released in 2018. Habiba is of Bangladeshi and American descent. She has two children and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her family.