Instead of putting my child in time out – I put myself in time out.
Oh how fascinated I am at the way my relationship with horses mirrors my relationship with my daughters as well as my relationship with life in general.
I have been editing footage from gentling my Mustang partner, Line Dance, for an online study I have going on. I have reached a portion of the footage where Dance was very fearful of something new that I introduced. I needed to become very relaxed, yet still present, while he processed this new experience. I needed to be deeply relaxed, going into a soft state of ‘Grazing Mode’ energy, in order to guide Dance to do the same. I also needed to remain present, in order to stay safe and also to stay connected to Dance. I needed to remain connected in order for him to ‘see’ my Grazing Mode and in turn mirror it.
I was in the middle of editing and reflecting on this footage with Dance when my daughter had a meltdown. The trigger for it is beside the point – the point was this was a full blown meltdown full of anger, determination and grit.
Before long she was grabbing dirty socks and tossing them at me! Oh my, oh my did this make my blood start to boil. I felt my ego swell up inside and a burning desire came over me to snatch those socks away and demand she stop being disrespectful … and I am not saying that would always be the wrong answer, but I knew in this moment, in this case, with this child, on this day – it was the wrong answer. How did I know? I knew because that answer came from a place of anger within me. I was in Tiger Mode and no answer that originates in Tiger Mode can be trusted.
So, as much as I wanted to dominate the situation with force, I did not. Now, let’s face it – she is 50 pounds, I am over twice that – I could dominate her – I could snatch that dirty sock away – but could I when she’s 15? and what would that teach her anyway? That when she is angry that she should man handle the situation to force her way? That simply does not work in life – life is not 50 pounds – you cannot just snatch the dirty sock away … this thought led me to my footage of Dance I was editing.
This was a 1000 pound horse, not as big as life, but big enough that I could not snatch a sock away from him either – He was going through a similar emotion as my daughter. He was frustrated, angry, unable to process this new experience he was having. But did I force my wishes on him? .. NO, of course not – he is 1000 pounds!. You do not force anything on 1000 pounds of terrified wild horse. Instead I did what I desired him to do. I went into Grazing Mode.
Light bulb moment, as I connected the two experiences!
Just because I ‘could’ snatch that sock away from my now 50 pound daughter, did not mean I should. It is important to me that my daughter develops the skills to handle her dirty socks as she experiences life on her own – life that will weigh much more than 50 pounds. She learns this, not through how I tell her she should feel and act – but by how I feel and act towards her. Just like the wild Mustang needed me to be in Grazing Mode in order to help him be there – my daughter needed to same.
So, instead of snatching the sock away – I ignored it.
Instead of putting my child in time out – I put myself in time out.
I took a deep breath and exhaled the tension that was suffocating my body and mind. As the socks continued to fly into my face I started counting – out loud, in a steady rhythm – from 1 to 60. When I reached 60, I took another deep breath and began again.
At first, this sent my daughter into a deeper rage. I mean, this child was MAD. She tried more and more ways to torture me with that dirty sock – tried putting it on me like a mustache, a hat, glasses … when it was physically uncomfortable I would just move to another room – but never stopped the flow of counting. She would follow – screaming, demanding I hear her, pulling at my clothes to physically stop me. Instead of pulling the clothes out of her hand, I just took them off and kept going.
She built and built and built. Just like a fearful horse builds in terror as they mindlessly try to escape danger.
Fear and anger are the same type of emotion in a horse. They both originate from a lack of inner peace. I see no difference in humans.
As she built, I maintained. I counted to 60 at least 15 times … from the outside looking in it must have looked like we were never going to stop, but I knew at some point she would try something different. The dirty sock was just not getting the reaction she was after, she is smart. I knew she’d figure this out.
After her frustration seemed to peak, she started crying. She cried for a few minutes (which I have always encouraged her to do if she feels the need – crying is a brilliant form of release) and then she came and sat quietly beside me on the couch. As soon as she did this I opened my eyes, stopped counting and gave her my undivided attention.
This timing of ‘yes’ is critical. With the Mustang, Dance, in the moment he started to relax I drew away to reward him. In the moment my daughter relaxed I stopped counting and gave her my attention again. When guiding a new behavior it is so important we are willing to go the distance, taking all the time it takes to model the desired behavior and that we have a way to quickly tell the ‘student’ .. YES that is the right answer when they shift in the correct direction in thought.
Now that my daughter and I were both in a state of Grazing Mode we could think, absorb, reflect, learn, grow.
She asked me why I had been counting and I explained how frustrated I had been feeling. The counting helped me relax. I explained that I cannot think clearly when frustrated and that I wanted to feel relaxed before we discussed our problem. …
She said, “oh, I didn’t know that.”
We then discussed the issue that had sent her into this rage briefly, but the fact was – that issue was never really the issue anyway – and it needed little discussion, because we had already had a tremendous discussion.
It is always easier to mirror the energy of the other person. To get angry because they are angry at us. To dig in and demand our horse behaves when he has ‘spooked’. To be mad at life, because we feel we were ‘done wrong’. This is easy, because it is operating from our primitive brain. The one that says Fight or Flight to survive…. but the fact is that may keep us alive, but it is no way to live. To live in a way that mindlessly mirrors the actions of others will destine us to a life of self pity, sadness and resentment. It does not have to be that way for any of us. And there is no way to truly be who we are each meant to be in life if we are simply a mirror of everyone else.
We must have the courage to be our own mirror, to look within and see the goodness, the Godness of the divine creator that IS us all. To mirror THAT. To feel that.
The energy that guides the grass to grow towards the sun is never afraid. The presence that aligns the stars and spins the earth has no fear. The God within is safe and peaceful. We must mirror that. That is all that is worth mirroring.
This was much deeper than a simple parenting exercise, or horse training technique. This was life. I was representing the divine, calming presence of our creator within as I softly counted to 60 – again and again and again. My daughter was representing how many of us operate in life – When we do not understand it, we fight it. She fought, but I would not mirror her fear. It was not easy, because there are human aspects of me that are not God. I have an ego like everyone else – allowing a dirty sock to be shoved under my nose was not easy for my arrogant human mind to tolerate. But the divine presence within me knows nothing but toleration. This presence does not falter when we attack it. This presence waits for us. Patiently waits, for however long we take to put down our dirty sock and sit down on the couch.
You may think by reading this – how dare I allude to the fact that I was representing God to my daughter. But the fact is we all represent God to our children, to everyone we meet for that matter. We are each the face of God, vessels for our creator to use to create through us and with us. I do not choose a vision of God as a damning, judgmental God that is anxious to punish and dominate – that is not how I want my daughter to view her creator or her life. I personally have no relationship with that vision of God. I feel that vision is operating from a place of ego, a depiction that arises from mortal, human traits that are not very divine at all……….and I do not desire to mirror any of that. … No, the God within that I have a relationship with is an all loving, all peaceful, all knowing God. This is the only God that I feel is real and this is what I want to mirror for my child.
This God is within each of us, we each have the ability to tune into this creator and mirror these divine qualities. It is my duty to turn away from my arrogant ego and turn towards this divine presence – especially when it comes to something as important as helping my daughter learn how to process her experiences in life.
It is obvious to me with a thousand pound horse that one must find ways to communicate without force. If you take away any ropes or physical tools of assistance, it is simply impossible to force a horse to do anything, but when you find the inner peace to guide a horse through a true unified relationship, one built on trust, mutual respect and mirrored guidance – this 1000 pound animal will walk through fire for you.
We must put ourselves in time out for our children sometimes, we must put ourselves in time out for our selves sometimes. We must be willing to find the bravery to turn away from ego and turn towards our creator within. To mirror the peace that is always available to us.
To BE that peace in the face of our dirty socks.