When you plant carrots, you need to dig deep to loosen the soil. The deeper you dig, the looser the soil, the longer and straighter the carrots. There are lot's of plants that require you to dig deep. There are also many, many moments in parenting that require you dig deep in a different sense. Yesterday was one of those days.
My children came home off the bus in the afternoon, they ran home and squealed in delight at the newly fallen snow: it was going to be a great afternoon. As soon as the door closed and shoes and coats and hats and mittens and backpacks were deposited into a huge pile in the middle of the mudroom, the tears began to flow. My children come home from school some days like they haven't been fed in weeks. Their hunger is so insatiable, so immediate, so primal. Two children with tears flowing over their hungry bellies. No problem I thought to myself, I'll make a snack. I offered a few choices that were met with rage filled, over exaggerated no's. I took a deep a breath and told myself they are hungry, so very hungry and tired. They are children who feel everything so deeply when they are overtired.
I cannot tell you what happened next or why, but I had one child shouting at me and another child crying over a toy her toddler sister would not share with her. It was mayhem, in an instant my house was mayhem. There was no peace, no kindness, no pleases, no thank yous. It was a chaos of tears and shouting and hunger and in order not to succumb to anger's seductive appeal I had to dig deep for my next breath. I had to dig into the place beneath my own internal chaos and mayhem and find that still deeper well of patience and one more breath. I took a breath. I tried to make a joke. The joke stoked my seven year old into a full on tantrum. I grabbed my now out-of-control boy in a sort of therapeutic hug and told him over and over "I love you, I will let you go when your calm. I love you, I will let you go when your calm". He calmed, I let go. He ran out of the house barefooted in the newly fallen snow, did a lap and came back in and nicely asked for his snack.
Another breath, it was over, peace and kindness restored. There are moments for my children when their needs are so immediate, so primal, that the need fills their entire being and demands its presence be known. There is no space for discussion or rationalization, it is all so immediate and irrational. These are the times I have to dig deep. I have to find that breath that lets me stay calm in the face of their chaos.
I don't always dig deep, just like a shallow garden bed of hard packed soil produces funky, gnarly carrots; the moments I don't dig deep result in pretty gnarly mama moments. But I strive to dig deep in the moments where my children let their bodies succumb to the feeling of sadness, rage, tiredness, or hunger, because I want them to know that I can hold their intensity. I can dig deep and find just enough breath, enough root, to ground us both. I want my children to know that their rage, their intensity, the emotions they are feeling so fully are fleeting and that I will not get swept away, enraged, or overwhelmed by them, but rather will be there on the other side to welcome them back.
I want them to see what it is to dig deep, so that eventually, they will learn that a still deeper well exists within them too.