Have you ever felt pressure within, telling yourself you need to get somewhere by a certain time, or that you are going to be late unless you hurry up? I remember several years ago when my family was preparing to leave for church and it was a more complex transition than usual because we had our three young grandchildren staying the weekend with us! The pressure sensation I felt in my neck and shoulders stemmed from having been asked to speak at my church that Sunday about Peacemaking and I really, really liked it when I had lots and lots of spaciousness arriving and setting up when making an offering.
As I walked out to help everyone get in our son's vehicle (it is large enough for all of us to fit in together) I saw my husband, Richard, doing his best to get the grandchildren all safely into their car-seats. I could hear one of our twin three-year-old grandsons, Andrew, crying out loudly to his Papa, though I couldn't quite make out what he was saying. As I drew close to the vehicle Richard turned to glance at me with confusion and I imagine some overwhelm, as I asked, "What's going on?"
"I have no idea what he's saying," he replied as he moved around to the other side of the vehicle to begin buckling in Carter.
I value “enjoying” our children rather than "managing" them and I felt my inner tension began to dissipate as I approached Andrew with a sense of curiosity. His little face was scrunched up, tears were streaming down, he arched his back trying to wiggle out of his seat-belt. I lifted him up out of his seat and stepped away from the vehicle.
Very young children are right-hemisphere dominant; they haven't developed left hemisphere logic and words to express their feelings. Holding him close, I gazed into his eyes and said, "Andrew, when I see you crying and trying so hard to get out of your car-seat, I'm wondering, are you feeling mad or sad?"
"S-s-s-sad!" He stammered with big emotional intensity.
"Oh, so very sad!" I reflected as I gave him a gentle hug, "Is there something you want Grammy to know?" I empathized.
"Y-yes," he said between stammering sobs,"I c-c-can o-open the d-door m-y-s-s-self!"
"You can open the door all by yourself?"I reflected with joy and awe in my voice and expression.
Seeing calm begin to return to his eyes as they caught mine, he stammered, "Y-y-yes, I can!" I saw the corners of his mouth turn into a slight grin.
"Would you be willing to show grandma?" I asked as I turned pointing toward the vehicle.
"Yes, I am wiwwing!" he grinned wide as he wiped away his tears and took a wavering breath releasing some of his emotional upset.
I set him down on the ground beside the vehicle and watched with wide eyes of wonder as he gripped the door-handle with both hands, pulled up with all his might, sticking out his tongue with exertion. Suddenly, the door popped open! Spontaneously I jumped up and down clapping my hands laughing out loud in celebration, "Yay, Andrew! You can open the door all by yourself! Can you climb in all by yourself too?"
"Yes, I can!" He replied with another grin. I observed his eyes were brighter and his face relaxed as he took in another wavering breath.
"Would you show grandma now?" I asked.
"Yes!" and he pushed the door wide to clamber in, pulling himself up and into the vehicle with stamina.
"Can you get into your car-seat by yourself too?" I wondered out-loud.
"Yes, I can!" he answered with growing enthusiasm. He promptly climbed into his car-seat, sat down with a lift of his chin, as a pleased smile spread on his face.
"Can you even buckle up all by yourself?" I asked with awe in my voice and wide curious eyes.
"Yes!" he responded and proceeded to concentrate seriously on buckling himself in, and he did it!
"Papa!" I cried out with delight, "Look! Andrew did it all by himself!"
"Wow, Andrew," his grandpa said with a twinkle in his eye, "You did do it all by yourself!"
"This is so exciting to see you can open the door, Andrew," I acknowledged, "you can even climb inside, get into your car-seat and buckle-up all by yourself! You are simply growing up and becoming so very capable. thank you for being willing to show grammy and papa!"
"You're welcome." He said returning my hug and kiss. Settling in to his seat he released one last wavering breath, letting go of the last of his inner distress.
Adults often respond to their child's behavior by focusing on the surface level of the experience rather than seeking the deeper levels of the mind. When we take time to nurture emotional understanding and compassion, we slow down to talk with our children about their thoughts, memories, and feelings, acknowledging that beneath every action is a sacred value, the root of motivation and action.
When we feel pressure and strain to keep up with all the details of life, we may become too busy doing things for our children, or grandchildren, and tend to forget how important it is to simply be with them. Slowing down to attune and resonate with their inner experiences we can delight in opportunities to join them in their amazing experience of growing and developing wisdom. Learning to share in the joy of living is at the heart of every relationship.