The nuance of connection
Tuesday was, without a doubt, a difficult day for my son. He is recovering from a virus which has obviously been causing him a great deal of discomfort, alongside growing a full set of teeth at the same time. Not easy. Especially not easy for a toddler who is busy grappling with the power of his body and emotions on a good day – let alone on a more difficult one.
Tuesday was also a difficult day for me. Finding myself unable to shake the disapproving look of the woman in the book shop that morning as my son threw himself on the floor and proceeded to bump his head, that look stayed with me all day. It gently corroded my confidence in parenting my boy, who was finding the day equally as bewildering and exhausting as I was. Except we both had the expectation that I should have been able to do something to change it. Instead the day ended with him in my arms, sat at the dinner table, dinner half cooked, both of us crying, when my husband walked through the door.
As my husband graciously took over and I was able to find some space to reflect, it became apparent that I had become subject to an incredible amount of guilt around not knowing how to fix the situation. I realised that the perceived criticism from another had not only set the tone of our day, but that it had left less space for me to tune into what my boy might have needed, giving us even less of a chance of getting there. Instead, it had opened up a space where my own pre-occupations and insecurities could thrive. In my mind the difficulties had built up like a huge tower of Jenga which was going to come crashing down on our heads at any moment.
This didn’t leave me any space to remember the moments of joy. The trundle down to the park at the bottom of the hill, my son taking great pride in every step. Watching his smiling giggling face come rushing towards mine as I pushed him on the swing. Walking with him hand in hand up the high street whilst he marvelled at everything we passed. His little smiling face peering over my shoulder and saying ‘boo’ as I cleaned the floor after lunch. Picking him up for another tearful cuddle and discovering that blowing raspberries all over his face immediately rights all wrongs in the world in that one sparkling moment.
Revisiting my role in all of this, I came back to what he needed me to do. He needed me to be with him. Regardless of what that involved being with, he needed me to show up. To be alongside him in all his pain, anger and frustration. To hold him through his fear as he momentarily realises that I actually cant read his mind and frighteningly he cant clearly communicate what it is he desperately needs to tell me. To gently hold the boundaries, whilst listening and meeting him wherever I could.
Which also happens to be the bread and butter of my life as a therapist. As is acknowledging the need and significance of rupture and repair. As described by Dr Allan Schore, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbfuBex-3jE&sns=em) it is in the interplay of rupture and repair that resilience is allowed to develop.
“The ability to repair ruptures is what allows for the tolerance of negative affect”
So it is in all those magical moments of connection, however momentary, that the real work of relationship and resilience is being woven. My initial guilt, shame and slight terror that this is what toddlerhood has in store for us, eclipsed the real beauty and intricacy of our relationship. I can have a tendency towards perfectionism, which at its best drives me to work hard, but at its worst does not allow for nuance, the bitter sweet, the light and the dark. It is my hope for my son that he can embrace all of these things, both in himself and in others. As we go on in our journey together I realise that not only am I helping to show him the world in all its colours, he is also reminding me of the colours I might choose not to see and showing me how truly beautiful they are.