So even though I am a parent coach, there are still times when the topics I teach about show up in my life and wave a big red flag basically saying, “Hey, you haven’t mastered me yet!” Oh yes, us “experts” are not immune from real life either.
Such was the case when Buzz Lightyear showed up and about drove me crazy. Well, it wasn’t quite Buzz. It was my almost 3-year old and his absolute insistence that he wear his new Buzz Lightyear costume right before we headed out the door for school drop off.
Sigh. Normally I would just say ‘sure’ and slip the thin white and green fabric over his head. But today, today we were running LATE. Like don’t wait another minute or I will be blowing through yellow lights instead of yielding late.
So I did what so many of us well-meaning parents do. I flip-flopped like a freshly caught catfish. First I said, “yes” because that is what I would normally say. Then I said “no” because I glanced at the clock. Then I said “yes” because I wanted to be the nice parent and I was afraid of an epic meltdown. Then I said “no” again because I realized I was fudging my boundaries for all the wrong reasons and we really were going to be late.
Guys, boundaries are sooo tricky. Especially when we are operating from fear. Fear of a meltdown, fear of our child being angry with us, fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of other people’s reactions.
Once I was able to lay my fear aside and pause for a moment I was able to get back to my “why”. Getting big sis to school was the priority. Secondly, learning how to be flexible and work as a team is a big value of ours. His feelings and desires could be validated, but not always immediately accommodated. I reminded myself of the truth: I could handle his big feelings.
And guess what? I did. I took the crying in stride, reassured him he could wear his costume when we got back home, and let him carry it into the car.
Learning to set kind and effective boundaries takes time. It requires us to remember that we can trust our own inner voice and that our needs (or the needs of the greater good) matter. It demands that we not give into dichotomous thinking. It requires us to acknowledge our child’s desires without allowing them to come first all the time.
And I think that was the lesson that I had to learn once again.