The Gift of Sibling Rivalry

bear cubs fightingWith these hot summer days, it’s a pretty familiar sound to hear my kids bickering. Usually I wait for them to work it out on their own, but this time, something told me to go and check in on them.

From the staircase, I saw Big Sister had Little Brother pinned against the wall, hitting him in the stomach and chest. I screamed out her name and took the stairs two at a time. Scooping her up, I struggled to get her to her bedroom as she flailed all four limbs in a full-blown tantrum.

This escalated to her slamming the door and screaming at me from the other side.

As she sat in her room cooling off, I sat down on the staircase and cried.

The tone of my self-talk was anything but kind.

Where did I go wrong? I suck at this! Why am I shaking?

My son, with his toothy grin flashing, walked up and wrapped his little arms around me. He held me in silence for 2 or 3 minutes, just as I do when he’s the one having a tantrum. His compassion was a reminder of exactly what I needed to give myself. My insides calmed and my heart swelled.

In that precious moment, I stopped berating and badgering myself about how I’d handled things. Moving to curiosity, I saw how I’d gone from seeing one child reacting from her slighted ego and full force into my own. What was I feeling? Why did I feel so alone and scared? What was different about this moment that tempted me to go off center?

I discovered the answer to why I felt fear. A flashback to a moment when I was 6 or 7 years old, seeing my bio dad hold my stepmom against the wall and punch her in the stomach.

He’d never laid a hand on me so I’d never realized how fearful I’d been that he would. And although, that memory was more than 30 years old, that fear felt real there with my kids. I’d filtered out the part about my son laughing, morphed his leaning against the wall to being pinned. These augmentations courtesy of my ego, seeing what my experience and beliefs wanted to show me, rather than what I actually did see with my eyes. Whoa.

Through the lens of my ego, I tried to force a teachable moment about using gentle hands. Inside my ego roared, You know better! We never use our hands against each other in this house! How dare you hit my son! Instead, I could’ve created a safe container for her to learn by recognizing and acknowledging how she’d felt provoked by him and subsequently slighted by me (as a later conversation revealed that evening).

Other ego thoughts included: It isn’t fair! I’m doing this work all alone. How can my husband be out for a jog right now?! How can I possibly stay attuned to two children at the same time? How can I possibly meet the needs of both when they’re in opposition?

I see more clearly now how my freaked-out ego led me to react with control, to regain a feeling of safety. That played out with me pinning down my daughter’s arms through her tantrum (which of course only made it worse and caused more resentment). I told myself that I needed to do that so that she wouldn’t hurt him any further or herself. When I tuned in to ask what was going on with me, I could see that feeling uncertain about what to do and feeling unsafe triggered a reaction instead of a centered response.

brown bear mom and cubsThis reflection allowed me to discover a few beliefs I was either unconscious to or at least wasn’t yet aware of how they can so easily limit me in an everyday moment.

  1. Not knowing what to do is scary.
  2. Conflict is scary.
  3. In a disagreement, one’s right and the other’s wrong.
  4. If I make a wrong choice, I’m bad.
  5. If I’m bad, no one will want me.
  6. I don’t have what it takes.

Two days later, the familiar sound of sibling impasse had me taking the stairs two-by-two again.

But this time, having uncovered these self-limiting beliefs, I stayed calm and centered. I felt better equipped to meet each child where they were at in that moment and at the same time. I was able to mediate from a heart centered place, where each child seemed to feel heard and seen. I’m certainly still working to clear these beliefs altogether, but my awareness is a huge help, and I didn’t walk away with sweaty palms and a lump in my throat.

If it weren’t for my conscious parenting practice, I wouldn’t have made these connections so quickly (or perhaps at all). I would’ve likely repeated this scenario over and over leaving us all feeling more frustrated, missing opportunities for connecting with one another. I would’ve likely brought the same fearful energy to them, missing chances for love and enjoyment of each other’s company. I would’ve likely been attached to an outcome of teaching a lesson rather than allowing the discovery to unfold organically for my child. I want to allow each of them their own spiritual path, not force upon them the patterns of my own.

I’ve felt drawn to looking at how fear shows up in other facets of my life and connect it back to these self-limiting beliefs. This led to a productive conversation with my husband as well, ironically around me trying to get him to read The Awakened Family. Having been met with resistance before over other books  (he’s more of an online article guy), I could see where I was trying to control the outcome. Having finally been able to give him a concrete example and a better understanding of what the work means to me, I’m no longer feeling so desperate about him joining me on this path. I know if he’s meant to, he will. But on his own timeline – not mine.

brown bearWhile this work often feels messy, I know that when I’m brave I can continue to raise my consciousness and examine my self-limiting beliefs. Because through this examination, I’m able to finally move through these beliefs and change my behavior in ways that are more authentic and honor who I really am. Love, not fear. ♥


Has this blog helped unlock something for you? Please leave me a comment below.

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