Friday, March 22, 2019

Growing Up Looks Neurotic… All the Way to 100!

March 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Parenting From Balance©

Last week at PlaySchool a little guy had an issue during some water play with his friends.  I heard him crying, and I went over to assist.

He was sobbing uncontrollably and asking to go home.  I hate to admit it, but I wasn’t completely present and so at first I honestly started to go into the mindset of “he is dis-regulated and there is nothing I can do about it.”  But then I listened to my own guidance: “if a person is tired, scared, hungry, cold, or thirsty, they will be more easily bothered by things.  Their triggers are closer to the surface.”  (This is not just for kids, it’s for everyone.)  I looked at the child.  I saw that his pants were wet and I made a guess that he doesn’t like that sensation.

Nothing weird there.  Some people might think that a tactile sensitivity is indicative of something more serious.  And sometimes it is.  And sometimes it isn’t.  When I was young I couldn’t tolerate wet or damp clothing.  Even now it is very hard for me to hang out in moist attire unless my entire body in submerged.  And as an adult, I get nauseous when my hands are covered in powder.  I don’t think either of those things have affected my ability to bring my gifts to the world, or to achieve a great life.

Growing through childhood can look really neurotic… and then in puberty it’s the same all over again.  That’s because those are two of the times your brain reorganizes itself.  Pregnancy and post natal are two more periods that look really neurotic for both parents, and I’m sure that 50, 65, 80, and 100 are also big times for brains to reorganize!

So, because I know that individual processes and coping mechanisms can appear neurotic, I don’t get all caught up on the ‘menu items,’ and instead I really try to stay focused on the big picture.

And today, when I did that with this child, I was able to see that his wet pants simply as a tactile sensitivity that needed to be addressed.

By now it was 2 minutes into the event.  The wet child was sobbing “I wanna – go- home!  I wanna-go-home!”

I kneeled down in front of him, and observed “You are wet.”  (Physical discomfort can make it hard to regulate.  When we state what we believe might be amiss with the other person, s/he can then begin to regulate.   Maybe this is because they feel heard and seen.  Maybe it is because they feel validated.  Maybe it is because when they become flooded or charged, the trauma forces them out of their body in some way.  Maybe they go into their head, for example, or into past or future thoughts; and our witnessing of their experience brings them back into their physical body in present time.  This is also called empathy.)

The child stopped chanting and his sobbing started to slow.

“Can I put dry clothes on you?”

The child nodded, still sobbing a bit.  He took my hand and we walked over to the bags.  He located his bag and I pulled a pair of clean dry pants from it.

He assisted me in pulling the wet pants from his legs. “Kick off your shoes,” I suggested. 

“Crocks,” he corrected me.

We quickly pulled on the dry pants at which point his sobbing had been reduced to a final hollow and unconvincing whisper. “I want to go home…..”

I knelt down before him again, and looked him right in the eyes.  “You don’t like it when your clothes are wet,” I said.  He nodded. 

Mentally returning to my “dis-regulation” list, I said “I wonder if you’re hungry.  Let’s see what’s in your lunch.”

He told me which lunchbox to retrieve, and then he sat  down in the sun on the pillows, bright as a plump tomato, while I brought it over.

I handed him his pack and he opened it and pulled out an apple.  A few bites later something across the yard caught his eye and he bounced up eagerly to investigate.

The child who was out of the game only minutes earlier was now back in play.  He had learned some important facts about checking in with his body when his emotions feel out of control (a lesson many of us still need to practice in our adulthood — especially on the 405!): and that vital lesson took only about 8 minutes.  

Thank god for Ruth Beaglehole, Marshall Rosenburg, Bev Bos, Laura Dotson, John Gottman, Melody Elder, and so many many others who have been lights on our paths.  The journey will always continue!!

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