My daughter and I were talking about our day while I was getting ready to head out for the evening. I was fluffing my hair and applying my makeup, and like many young girls she was curious. She asked why I was putting concealer on; I explained and we went on with our chat about the day.
The next day I reached into my drawer and my concealer was missing. My mind went to my daughter and her curiosity. But I quickly skipped over that thought...maybe I put it in my purse?
After looking everywhere I could think I might have left it, I asked her if she knew where it could be. She strongly and quickly denied knowing anything about it. I noticed how she quickly defended “knowing nothing about it”. I became even more curious at this point. My mom radar was up. I noticed my body getting tight and constricted as I went below the line into fear. I was telling myself the story she was lying to me, and I was pretty sure I was RIGHT about it. My righteousness was flaring its ugly head, and the voices were getting louder...
My body was getting tighter and tighter. I gave her a few more chances to fess up, but not before I had her in prison for much of her adult life in my mind, without a job or any friends because of her deviousness and outrageous lack of morality.
I was so below the line in fear that I couldn’t see straight. I KNEW she took it. I felt it in my bones. But the truth is, I didn’t really know. I strongly suspected, but I had no actual proof. In that moment I had a choice to make, and I chose to open my mind.
I took a few deep breaths, came back to the present moment, and opened my mind to other possibilities:
As my mind began to loosen its righteous grip, what followed next was not only interesting and informative, but incredibly empowering.
Before the concealer incident, we had an agreement that we would cuddle up before bed and watch one of our favorite shows. My righteous self was thinking, "I don't want to condone her (alleged) behavior by spending special time with her. I let that thought go for the time being. As I sat there snuggling and breathing into my awareness, I noticed my chest felt very heavy. This clued me in that sadness was present. I observed my thoughts and realized that the idea of my daughter lying to me made me very very sad. I sensed myself wanting to control my sadness and my daughter’s behavior simultaneously. "If I could get her to tell the truth, I will feel better,” is what my mind was telling me. My mom control plan was in full force.
Instead, I decided to share my “in the moment” experience with her. I told her that I noticed I was feeling sad because I was telling myself a story that she was lying to me, and the idea that she would lie to me scares me because trust is more important to me than anything else. I told her that I believe trust is the foundation of all good relationships, and that if we couldn’t trust one another I was afraid of what would happen to our relationship. I told her that I loved her and that our relationship was more important to me than anything else, including concealer.
Speaking my own truth nakedly and vulnerably, I felt simultaneously scared and sad.
She looked at me long and hard, and...she steadfastly stuck to her story.
We finished our show and with a hug and a kiss she went up to bed, my sadness and fear still looming.
I went to bed nurturing my wounds and my stories. A I comforted myself, acknowledged my ongoing desire to control her, and my emotions and feelings, and recommitted to not giving in to that impulse. I continued to simply be with my sadness.
The next morning I woke early to a note under my door folded origami style and addressed to “mommy." My heart started to beat more quickly as I unfolded it.
In the letter my daughter confessed to her “crime.” Her note was authentic, clear and filled with love, honesty and vulnerability. She talked about how afraid she was to tell me the truth and how bad she felt and how scared she was. She told me she doesn’t know how she could possibly lie to someone she loves so much. I felt her deep sadness, guilt, shame and most of all, her fear. I felt excited and proud. Excited that rather than her being bullied into the truth by my controlling fear, she found her way there on her own. Proud of my willingness to let go, trust and allow. Proud of her willingness to authentically step into her truth and express herself, and truly excited about who she was becoming.
My heart melted into hers. I realized that she and I were doing the same thing. We were both afraid and our egos jumped in to take control. What was true was that we both were operating from the same place - FEAR.
In those early moments our egos took over and neither of us were open or available to our authentic feelings. Our fear was too big and loud and getting in the way. However, as time passed, and we both had space to be, a new world of possibility opened itself to each of us. What occurred as a result was far more powerful: we arrived at a place of deeper trust, honesty and greater authenticity. The powerful practice of opening my mind to all possibilities, shifting my attention to myself, and trusting my daughter allowed for something more deeper to occur for each of us.
Sure, I could’ve threatened and shamed her into telling me the truth (and believe me, I have gone down this path over the last 18 years). I would’ve likely gotten to the truth. This strategy works, but at what cost? What am I really trying to teach her after all? Am I after the truth, or am I cultivating qualities of being that will shape who she evolves into in the world? Qualities such as...
#1 Taking responsibility for her choices, decisions and the results that follow
#2 Discovering her own sense of integrity
#3 Opening to vulnerability and trust
What her letter told me was that she was open and willing to risk being vulnerable, and to stay in integrity with who she was at her core, not who I thought she should be. Her letter came from her need to feel aligned with her being, her sense of self, not from her need to please me and get out of trouble.
My daughter learned far more than any externally imposed punishment could have taught her. She learned courage and responsibility, she learned to be vulnerable and trust, she learned to be resilient and she learned to feel her authentic feelings. Most of all, she learned to be open to trust that stepping into her truth is far more empowering than protecting her ego.
And I learned that my true power does not lie in allowing my fears to control my kids behaviors, but in revealing my authentic self and trusting my kids will follow suit.
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