Do you ever have those days where your kids actively fight you with every step they take?
Yeah, me too.
To be honest, I’ve had a string of those days lately. Most of today was spent listening to grumpy kids screaming at everyone and everything in frustration. The latest came with angry tears, “It won’t stick right! If my knee is bent, it bubbles up. If my knee is straight, it’s too tight!” With a handful of used band-aids on the floor, my child was determined to find one that worked or yell it into submission.
It was one of those days everybody felt like giving up, gentle parenting be damned.
The kids are now in bed and this moment of silence reminded me of something I had learned years ago, and might need to relearn again. Back when my youngest was a toddler, I remember fistfuls of food in his hair, thrown on the floor, and squished into the carpet. With tears and screams, he made it clear he didn’t want to eat his veggies that day. I remember feeling exhausted and defeated. I was worried about how I could ever help my kids develop healthy habits if the good thing is too hard for them. And for me.
But I didn’t give up that day. In fact, something shifted. I decided to stay in the moment and interpret the resistance as a plea for connection. After acknowledging my son’s strong feelings, I moved in gently and asked, “Would you like me to feed your vegetables?” I remember looking into his eyes as they softened. His body relaxed and he nodded with relief.
Resistance is a plea for connection.
Resistance isn’t looking for a fight. It’s begging for a bond. It’s a desperate grasp for perspective when we’ve lost all sight of it for ourselves. It’s looking for a gentle touch of understanding when everything feels out of control and we don’t know why.
It’s easier to see this when our children are younger. It’s probably easiest to see through their resistance when they are babies. We aren’t rattled by their pleas for connection. I guess as they grow stronger, we are called to grow stronger too. When did our kids stop ever being those angelic creatures we enjoyed watching as they slept? They are still little miracles of life. We just need to be reminded. It’s probably why my wife likes to say, “You’ll always be my baby.”
Next time we experience such overwhelming resistance, maybe we can remember to not assume it’s a fight for our dignity, time, or energy. Resistance is only a monster by disguise, grasping for tools to help and still learning to ask for what it needs. Hiding underneath is the same bundle of joy we brought home from the hospital. We don’t ever lose that, we just forget sometimes.
Maybe our eyes will adjust and our hearts will recognize we can forge a new pattern. Maybe we can stay present through the stormy waves and whisper, “I’m here with you.” You don’t want to take a bath? I’ll bathe you. You don’t want to clean your room? I’ll do it with you. This band-aid isn’t doing what you want it to do? I’ll listen to you. You don’t want to eat your broccoli? I’ll feed you.
I’ll just be here with you.
Has anyone stopped longing to experience such a simple and caring gesture? No matter their age, our children never outgrow the desire to feel connected to us somehow. It’s the gift that can soothe all sorts of ailments. Regardless of whether or not our children respond to our efforts the way we envision, I hope this message helps you connect back to yourself. Writing it helped me find myself again.
I see you. I hear you. And I’m staying right here until you’re ready.