Sunday, November 08, 2009

Not My Story

Inspired by a short essay I read yesterday, I started thinking about how often in my everyday life I look at things through my own lens, my own story. When I walk into my bathroom, sit down on the toilet to do my business and, too late, notice that someone has neglected to replace the empty toilet paper tube, more often than not I take it personally.

In 'my story,' this constitutes an act of disrespect. Why would someone come into my bathroom, use it and leave without having the common courtesy to make sure it will be ready for me to use when I come in again? How dare they?

In real life, it's more likely that Eve or Lola simply dashed in there, frantic to pee and finish and get back to the game she was playing or book she was reading, and completely spaced the fact that all of the TP was gone. I'm fairly sure, when I take myself out of 'my story,' that it wasn't meant as a personal attack.

What a relief!

After 12 hours of reflecting on this concept and relaxing in to it, I decided that there is so much I don't know about why the girls do the things they do and how they feel that perhaps I ought to ask them.

So I left them each a worksheet to do sometime this morning while I went out to the grocery store. Each of them had several questions like these:

  • When I am singing I feel _______________________
  • When I fight with Eve/Lola I feel _____________________
  • When I'm reading alone I feel ____________________
  • When Mom or Dad is mad I feel ____________________
  • When Eve/Lola and I are playing together I feel ___________________
  • When I am rushed I feel ___________________
I tailored the questions to each of the girls somewhat (I asked Lola how she feels when she wakes up in the middle of the night and Eve how she feels when she is faced with a new task). At the bottom of the page, each of them had to make a list of things that the other members of our household do to make them feel loved and special. I also asked Eve to tell me the times of the week when she feels the most crunched for time and Lola to tell me the kinds of things she likes to do to help out around the house and how that makes her feel.

When I got home I sat down with each of the girls individually and reviewed their answers. A few of them I could have predicted but some of the others were shocking. Having completed their papers separately, I was thrilled to see that they both said they feel loved when they are playing together.

I was sad to see that Lola said she feels "dumb" when she's rushed through her day, either our morning routine or her work at school. She said she feels "grumpy" when she's practicing piano. Wow.

I have learned so much about them by doing this simple exercise. The things they listed under the question of what our other family members do to make them feel special were so simple. There was no "buy me stuff," or "let me stay up late," or "play on the computer." The answers were things like snuggling, reading stories together and saying 'thank you.'

I'm posting these pages on my bathroom mirror to remind me that Lola's story is not my story. Eve's story is more complex and unique than what I might have imagined. My girls don't need much to feel cherished. Certainly not video games or new clothes.

They have also learned, by looking at each other's lists, that each of them has the power to make the other one feel good or bad. Lola feels 'sad' when they fight and Eve feels 'angry' but since they both feel 'loved' when they play together, I believe that will result in more mindfulness when they have conflicts. Who wouldn't choose loved over sad/angry?


Carrie Wilson Link said...

Such a great illustration of "make no assumptions." Love this exercise! Good job!

Deb Shucka said...

You are an amazing mom. I think it's one of life's greatest lessons when we can really know more often than not that it's not always about us - in a really good way.

Jess said...

That is so cool that you do things that like with them. Lucky girls.

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