Long ago, I discovered a playground secret that, at the time, thrilled and baffled me. When I would push my little daughters on the swings, they would inevitably stray from their straight trajectory and sway crookedly toward the side bar. The cheaper the swingset, the more frequently this would happen. I would try to wiggle them over to the other side by pushing in the opposite way. Instead of compensating for the crookedness the way I foresaw it, this would only cause them to swerve further into their crooked path, and then they would swing in a wild loop. Quite by accident, I started pushing them in the direction they were going. I thought that would produce the same effect as pushing them in the opposite direction...that they would swing wildly. But they didn't. The swing straightened, and they would be able to gain their balance and start pumping with their legs again, and climb higher and far.
How many time in parenting do we "swing" our children the opposite way? Instead of honoring their impulses, listening to the feelings, and showing them the way, we start to oppose. And opposition begets opposition. Instead, we can swing with them by gently redirecting their impulses, deflecting their anger with humor, quieting our own anger and triggers, letting them fly free even as we welcome them with open arms. We are the one guiding and pushing, gently keeping them on the straight path.
My oldest teenager has always been a mystery to me. I am in awe of her talent, completely convinced she has things to bring to this world, and think she is a beauty. But she carries more of my ex-husband in her than I like...his quick temper, his negativity, and his sure criticism. Often I am the target, and I long for true connection with her, which I believe cannot happen from a place of criticism. This has been a real challenge for me...to love her as she figures out which parts of her parents she wants to keep, and which she wants to change. Swinging with her has not been easy, for she keeps jumping off the swing, and that is what she is supposed to do.
I must be content with the few moments of connection we do have, and allow her space to grow.
It is so very hard to let her go....