I bid my two eldest sons goodbye this past weekend as they returned excitedly to university life. Like usual, my feelings were mixed: happy to see them striking out and saddened by the space left behind.
No better remedy for a little melancholy than housework.
About 45 minutes in, counters gleaming, my breath caught in my throat and the telltale pressure of tears swelled in my chest. I lifted my head and let the feelings rise and reveal.
What I found surprised me. I had expected the tears of parent-child separation. What I felt instead was the unmistakable pain of self-judgment and doubt.
Curious, I retraced my steps and found that, while my hands had been automatically sorting and wiping, my mind had drifted into its own habitual thought pattern, one that begins with me scanning mentally through my son’s actions and choices – both immediate and historic – looking largely for faults and ends with me choking on questions of my own ‘enoughness’.
I had caught myself red handed in a logic sequence that sounds something like this: “as long as my sons are making good choices and achieving demonstrable success, I will know that I have been a good mother, worthy of everyone’s love and respect.”
No wonder my mind’s eye is trained vigilantly to spot my son’s shortcomings. Not because I don’t want or expect them to succeed. Rather, because I have hitched a good part of my own self-worth to their success – I have a lot riding on them.
Gulp. What a trap.
What a revelation!
Seeing the hidden truth of this pattern is a real game changer. From this vantage point, I am already seeing new ways of tending compassionately to my own sense of worth without implicating my sons or blunting my capacity to fully support and honour them, as they are.
It feels like a whole new space has opened to grow my connection with these fabulous young men.
Hah! Talk about Relationship Coaching in action. By slowing down, staying present to my difficult feelings and listening to their wisdom, I was able to bring hidden beliefs and embedded patterns into a new light, exposing a whole new set of possibilities for relating more openly and lovingly with myself and my sons.
And, the house got cleaned.
If you want to start the New Year off building your capacity to relate more skillfully and love more mindfully, Relationship Coaching may be your best next step.