Listening: My Parental Dilemma

Jan 06, 2021
Listening: My Parental Dilemma


Learning to bear, listening, inner vigilance.

These are themes I found myself grappling with this week as a result of a difficult interaction with my daughter. I had asked her to correct a certain behavior, thinking nothing of it. 

I justified my behavior in my mind and apologized, but I couldn’t see how hurt she was. I really thought it wasn’t a big deal, but the air remained “thick” and the exchanges were curt, defensive with no resolution in sight. My apology did not feel sincere and by the next day, we were dealing with a build-up.

Without getting into too much detail, I found myself working hard to listen and to resist the urge to be right. There were various sensations rushing through my body as I remembered myself and then could bring intentional sensation in order to ground and stabilize. I was thoroughly aware that I was working internally at this moment. I chose not to run away. I had to attempt to listen in abject neutrality though I was nowhere near neutrality inside.

After all these years, I can say there were no fireworks of reaction going off within me, but there was an awareness of an aim to see more. I almost felt suspended in time. I heard myself say that I need to see what I cannot see. I need to hear what I cannot hear. And, I did not want to!

It was an exercise in staying and in listening. I listened to her tone of voice and when my husband joined the conversation, I felt canceled, invisible, and shamed. All I could do was attempt to listen and fight the urge to say “no that is not how I saw it.”

It’s been a long time since something like this has happened. We are all here on top of each other, day in and day out in our COVID world. We have our own personal spaces, but the collective togetherness seems to override the alone time. If the laundry is not aired, things involute quickly.

I was having to bear myself in the moment. I had to question my own reality, listen to the other perspectives and digest. Could I hear the hurt in both of their voices? Yes. Could I hear their frustration for my lack of remorse? Yes. Could I feel remorse? Not at that moment. My pride was too strong, and so the wrestling match within began.

I started with knowing that the remorse was not there, but all I could do was sense my body, breathe, and listen. I knew that if I could do that and not justify my actions inside of my head, then something could give way and the inner combustion would begin. I might hear something I could not hear before. I only know this from doing it many times. This is all happening while there is a heated dispersion of what feels like accusations. Even saying I’m sorry once again was not going to cut it.

I had to listen with curiosity and wonder with the possibility that I could not understand what this person felt at the time. I did know that I had to lean toward the love I have for both of these people. Deep Love. So I remained in my awkwardness, my confusion, my feelings of shame and watched it turn into neutrality.

At this pivotal point, I noticed the ability to listen became much easier. I could feel their needs. It was no longer about me.

I also heard accusations getting conflated, where general trends of behavior get hidden in the trenches of specifics. There was something beyond the actual incident being revealed, and so I found myself listening from a new perspective. I could see her longing. I could see my lack of respect. There was a lot of emotion coming forth in my daughter and my husband, but I felt I was in suspended animation. I was stuck in something far beyond my comprehension.

I now listened inside and though I did not have complete resolution at that time, I had unearthed a kind of sadness, an incapability, and a fragility within myself. This carried on into the night with fleeting dashes of self-pity that melted into a deep self-questioning. Then grief fell over me…the passage of time, the growing up of children, the weird role of being a parent that forms grooved pathways. It felt harsh, almost unfair, as I grappled to see what I was clinging to.

Was I callous? Was I always taking and never giving? Of course not, I was acting on “Mom autopilot” to an adult one too many times!!! It then got turned inside out and upside down, boiling down to me seeing that I need to respect an adult as an adult especially if they are my offspring. 

Parenting of a certain sort was no longer applicable or effective!

I pushed against a strong current within myself, made big efforts to listen, and felt like I understood something connected to my very identified behavior as a parent. That behavior wants to preserve the status quo of correcting their behavior as if they are still children. 

More than anything, I have gratitude for my daughter being here; a daughter who has a beautiful life of her own out in the world. My parenting must take a different form no matter how much it feels like losing something precious.


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