One Trigger at a Time
How Our Children Help Us Heal
by Jessica Gammell-Bennett
Conscious parenting is understanding that our children are reflections of their environment and can enhance our self-awareness.
Right after our son’s second birthday, my husband raised his voice to me, and our son, Garrett, walked into the room, planted himself firmly in front of his father, and said in the sternest voice he could muster, “No Dada. Stop it. You no yell at Mommy!” while holding up his hand in a ‘stop sign’ fashion. Our jaws dropped. “I am stopping it Garrett,” was all my husband could stutter. I was speechless. While all relationships are mirrors of our inner discord, our unhealed wounds, none are more so than the relationships we have with our children. Our children are our greatest teachers, and they have the power to transform us into our most awakened selves if we let them.
I just finished reading ‘The Conscious Parent and The Awakened Family’, by Dr. Shefali Tsabary. What I’ve learned is that our children have a soul contract with us: we call these souls forth so that we may be given our greatest opportunity, the chance to awaken to our unconsciousness. To choose to see our children as our spiritual teachers, raising us up as much as we are raising them, is to participate in chipping away of the ego on an epic scale.
It is a process of unfolding, a journey that ultimately will not only heal us but bring us to the present moment. It is a process of allowing, surrendering, moment to moment. Of feeling the triggers when they come, but then stepping back and witnessing them for what they are: old wounds, begging to be healed. It is a constant practice. It is exhausting, but no more so than being unconscious.
Along the way, I came up with a system to navigate this process:
1. Identify the feeling: At first, it will feel like our children are triggering feelings in us all day long. That is a good sign, a sign that we are waking up and becoming aware of our unconsciousness. Each time we feel a strong emotion, we need to stop and ask "What is this bringing up in me?"
2. Identify the trigger: Each night, I take five minutes to journal and identify where my triggers came from. Sometimes, they’re related to my upbringing. In this case, I ask myself, "What wounds are being excavated for me to look at?"
3. Identify the boundary: Another form of triggering can occur when we fail to set a definitive boundary, and then we get upset with our child when they force us to look at it. This kept happening at bedtime for us. We weren’t consistent with the routine. Now, we set the boundary: two stories and two songs. Period.
4. Identify the mirroring: Our children mirror our inner state. If they are being aggressive, guess what? We’re pissed off about something.
5. Connect instead of correcting: Yesterday, Garrett skipped his nap and was exhausted, throwing ice cubes all over the floor. So I kneeled down, looked into his eyes, and asked "What’s up?" "I’m tired Mommy," he pleaded. "Okay, so how about you go pick up the cubes, then we’ll snuggle on the couch and read a book? Daddy can do dinner, then we’ll go to bed early. "Yay! You did it, Mommy!" He squealed, and off he went to pick up the cubes.
6. Identify the lesson our children are teaching us: The other day we went to a walking trail that starts right off of a busy road. We grabbed Garrett’s hands to get him down the trail a bit, away from the road. He kicked and screamed the whole way, so I kneeled down, looked in his eyes, and asked, "What’s up?" He wailed, "I want to start from the beginning!" So all the way back to the car we trudged. "Now," he said "you walk next to me Mommy." So off we went, with me between him and the guardrail, full of angst, trusting that this was going somewhere. When we got back to my husband, Garrett said, "Now, that’s how you do it, Mommy. You walk next to me. You don’t drag me."
And that is conscious parenting: we don’t drag our children down the path of life. We walk beside them, in partnership, learning from each other.