The Slow Art of Compassionate Connection

the whole brain child

After a meltdown consisting of spitting and “I don’t like you” last evening, I opened up my nightstand drawer and scooped up the book The Whole-Brain Child.  Time for a refresher.  Something was off.  Yes, meltdowns and tantrums are “normal” and age-appropriate for my three-year-old child, but when I find myself feeling like a deer-in-the-headlights – wanting to be an authoritative pirate instead of an assertive-but-sturdy captain – I know I need support.

I’m sharing because anytime I find a lesson that’s universal, from whatever channel of expertise, I know it must have substance, value and practicality.  And here’s the lesson:

Between rigidity and chaos, we can find flow and integration.  Being too rigid, too sharp, too “boundaried”, we feel stifled and the need to explode (too hit, to spit, to say unkind things, to CONTROL).  Being too chaotic, too open-ended, too free-flow, we feel endless and unsafe.  We feel like nuts.  We all need a safe harbor, we all need guidance, but we all need exploration and the chance to honor our own rhythm of inhales and exhales.  It’s a fine line, and it requires digging deeper than just a set of rigid rules, authoritarianism, or just throwing our hands in the air and giving up.  Finding the integration of flow – for our children or ourselves – takes the proactive work of slowing down, connection, practice and attunement.

This reminds me of a dance practice called 5 Rhythms, which consists of the five patterns: flow, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness.  Throughout a 5 Rhythms practice, we move through and embody each of those five rhythms whether “we’re in the mood or not”.  What a helpful movement and body practice to experience not only those rhythms and feelings and ways of being for ourselves but also to taste the intensity of what little people must feel.

This isn’t data driven work.  It’s feeling work.  It’s not exactly popular or easy in our instant gratification culture.  Yes, an MD and psychologist wrote The Whole-Brain Child, and yes, they give rich examples and suggestions and tips and science-based research.  But, I love that they offer theory and practice and big picture ideas.  They offer a hand to hold, but ultimately, as in life, it’s up to us as thinking and feeling individuals – beings with hearts and minds and imagination and time – to explore the slow art of compassionate connection.

Sometimes as a parent, learning on the job, I feel like I take two exciting steps forward (and I get really confident), then I take a step back.  I can see how I missed some opportunities to connect with my little guy yesterday, and what a tricky balance it is to incorporate children into our days as people with bills to pay and errands to run.  But, I know I can start over.  I know we can make sure the play time and wrestling and hide-and-seek and big hugs happen earlier than before for my little kinesthetic learner.  I know we can try again, and maybe that’s the bigger lesson.

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