Relationships Take Humility
Being in a partner relationship and parenting take humility. This creates a problem for me (Stephen) because sometimes, not all the time, I try and control everything and everyone in my life. Now, I can tell you a story about how this stems from a deep place of insecurity and fear that I will be rejected, and so I try to keep things nice and tidy through control to avoid my insecurity and fear, but we don’t need to get into that.
What I do want to tell you is how I was reminded that humility, not control, is the pathway to connection as a partner and parent. This morning my son M and I got into a disagreement. He needed my help doing some Spanish homework and I was busy typing an email. Being the good dad I am, I snapped at him with a brusque, “I can’t help you right now, you’ll have to figure it out yourself,” and moved on.
I’m sure you’re all surprised to hear that M immediately got his feelings hurt. When his feelings get hurt M gets “very loud” by being very silent and broody. Typically, this mood fills the space and everyone tiptoes around him until his mood shifts. This makes me so angry.
An Invitation To Humility
Erin walked into the room shortly after this exchange. She quickly assessed the situation. There were two broody, silent, boys in the room. Astutely, she made a move to help the actual boy and tried to talk with M about how he was feeling. No dice.
Then, she looks at me, and says,
“He is having a really hard time. Why is him having a hard time so hard for you right now?”
Her tone wasn’t accusative but the question definitely was an invitation to get me out of myself and think about M.
I went downstairs, and heard a little voice in the back of my head say,
“You need to let this go.”
What was the “this?” I wanted M to leave me alone while I was working and I wanted him to not have a problem with how I responded to him. I wanted him to do what I said without having any experience or feelings about it. I wanted to control the situation.
Erin’s question called me to look at myself and admit I was part of the problem and that I needed to move towards M and seek reconciliation. In other words she invited me to be humble. Dammit! I didn’t get humble right away, I waited about 15 minutes and then got over my need to control and asked M to come downstairs and talk with me.
Putting Humility Into Action
Basically, it went like this, “So, M I got upset and made you feel bad for asking me a question. Then I got mad at you for how you let me know I made you feel bad. Guess what? I realize that I got mad because I do the same thing when my feelings are hurt. I get moody, silent, and fill a room with my feelings. So, basically, I got mad at you for doing something I do, and I imagine that one of the people you learned that from was me.”
I pause and then continue, ” I’m sorry. I was wrong. One of the things I am trying to work on is not being so controlling and showing my disappointment in less of a “take up the whole room” kind of way. Maybe you and I can work on the way we show our disappointment and do it in a way that feels good to us and others.”
M’s response, “Yeah dad you are that way too. I forgive you. I’m sorry too.”
A Humble Reminder
I forget the way to connect with my family is not to dig in on things in such a way that we are in a constant face off. Humility, says, “Hmmm, I should come at this a different way and I am part of the reason this is not going well.” As partners and parents humility can help us connect. It’s not easy but it sure is more enjoyable than being in constant conflict.