I tell Amy, “Please ask.” “Ask for help.” “Let me know if…” “Please tell me.”
And then when she does, I say “No.”
I think of myself as someone ready to help, happy to connect, and yet, it doesn’t seem to be entirely true.
Well, if it was a beautiful day and Amy and I woke up smiling and I didn’t have anything on my to-do list, or not much, and she asked oh-so-politely, “Would you like to play Junior Monopoly with me?” I might cheerfully say yes. On such a beautiful day, I might even say yes if she asked oh-so-politely “Would you like to play paper dolls” (or “Miss Clavel” or “Cinderella”)? I’m not sure I would ever cheerfully say yes to “Would you like to play mean girl,” though.
I guess the problem is when the asking is inconvenient to me, or when it happens AFTER I’ve found the end of my rope.
Like today, when I was practicing stay-listening by following her around after she had kicked or hit something she was frustrated with, and as long as she still seemed upset I stayed near her, explaining that I didn’t feel safe yet leaving her alone.
But then, after a while, she started to back away just a little and giggle as I stepped forward just a little. And, ideally, this is perfect! Laughter is a great emotional release, as well as a great connection tool. Ideally, I would have joined in the new game with enthusiastic abandon.
Instead, I got annoyed.
And figuring she felt better now, I left to get back to the work I wanted to do.
And she started to cry and to say “I don’t feel safe.”
And I didn’t feel like doing the right thing and returning to stay-listening. I (too quickly, I’m sure) felt manipulated into paying more attention than I wanted to. She wanted to connect more and more and longer and longer, and I wanted to get away and do something else.
It’s not that terribly hard to set a limit like “No, we’re not going to have a cookie right now,” using connecting and listening tools. But what if you want to set a limit on being together? How do you disconnect in a connected way?
Sometimes my just-like-me ridiculously intensely craving willful daughter feels to me like a looming monster about to devour me, hovering over my every move, waiting to pounce, insatiable. It’s really hard to say “Yes!” to an insatiable monster.