She has suddenly stopped eating most of the foods she ate three weeks ago. The list of acceptable foods is getting shorter each day. At the same time she has become a tyrant over the family cat. And on the way to camp this morning she insisted on being a back seat driver telling me when to go and where to park.
As I talk with my husband about what's been going on, it becomes clear that there are several ways to make sense of these recent events.
1. Our daughter is becoming a bossy, controlling, pain in the ass. (I say this with lots of love. And more than a little frustration.)
2. This is a clear message from the universe that it's time to get rid of the cat, her friends and her taste buds. Is it possible to trade in your kid?
3. This is normal. What looks like controlling behavior is a message about her own anxiety and discomfort around change. This summer has been all about her growing autonomy. Now, as summer draws to a close first grade is looming. There's family camp and then I will go away for the longest I've ever been away from her. 10 whole days. She is spending long days at gymnastics camp, a totally new environment for her where she is working hard to figure out the norms.
So instead of worrying that my kid is turning into a brat, we make a plan. I tell her gently that I don't want to fight about food. I ask her what she wants in her lunch box. I explain that she needs to eat a piece of ham for breakfast, before she has fruit or a waffle. I remind her that everything works out. That I'm here to keep her safe. And I let her sit silently on my lap for a few minutes before leaving her at camp for the day. Without judgement. Imagining that she is trying to tell me that she wants to feel more connected to me.
Finally, I set an intention to sit with her and talk about the conveyer belt of worries (from Sitting Still Like a Frog) and to use our mindfulness practice to help her sit with whatever feelings are causing her need to impose her will on everyone around her, knowing that some of this is just developmental. And, most importantly, not letting this become the norm in how I think about her. Not letting this version of her become a role that she gets stuck in, but giving her space to figure out how she wants to respond.
I like the image of the angry frog because it's how I feel right now. I imagine that it's probably how Emily feels too. Please, send us your wishes that we figure out how to break the spell and turn the frogs back into their normal selves.
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