Skills. I definitely need skills.
Though I also need to re-read our parenting manifesto more often. Because the skills for staying calm (while I'm dealing with the depth of despair in my child) is right there - 'it will all be different 2 weeks or a year from now'... that combined with not letting even the slightest subtext change my tracks... those subtexts are MINE, and I need to own them and not let them rule the intersection between me and my child as if they belonged to my child. It's a different kind of staying present - observing the inner voice, then not acting on it yet - letting it cry out and then seeing where the hole in me resides, so that I can heal that wound instead of inflicting it on another.
All that stuff about not passing on the pain, you know. Which is valid.
As a child, I definitely was controlled in public with a sense of shame and fear - not harshly or intentionally, but ... well, that was the era, and especially parents who were not doing things 'by the book' were under the microscope socially, being scrutinized for how they were screwing up their kids. Single parent, divorced parent, working mother, GASP! Won't you think of your children? What will become of them? As much as my mom was good at putting off the pressure to conform, placing it back on them, she also leaked a little of the pressure around the edges. And I was sensitive to that.
Beyond that, the shameless commentary and glances from others if I misbehaved also was a method of getting my compliance. As much as we bemoan that we lack the connections with our community to have us responsible to each other - to neighbors and social peers - there was no way to control their skill or ability in how they applied those rules, either. Often enough it was shame, anger, guilt, and fear. I'll tell your father. I saw you being bad. You should know better. I thought better of someone raised by your parents. I expect more decorum from a girl. Not exactly messages my mom was trying to impart... but pressure applied nonetheless, outside her bounds.
So here I am, leaking out the pressure to make my kids into the ideal cultural norms - not bowing to the pressure at all, but leaking from the internal wound there. I was an observer. Noted as one, a social anthropologist before I could walk, I would happily sit in one place and watch how people behaved at a party, watch their interplay, their honesty and lies, their methods. I learned probably too much, too soon.
So, I conclude that it isn't the crying ALONE that gets me. It is that when it keeps going I end up interpreting from it. I get to where I'm thinking 'what if she acts like this in public' or 'she's learning to be selfish and greedy and I need her to NOT grow up like that' or 'if my SIL saw me right now, I'd get one of those looks that I know she doesn't mean as judgment in the slightest but that I feel as proof of my unworthiness...' ... I get the social commentary from my own childhood coming in and nibbling at my psyche.
It comes in as any variation of 'I'm failing to be a good mother to them' plus 'anyone looking on will *know* I'm failing'.
So it goes back to that same shame, fear, anger, and guilt. The big four of the codependency issues. They cry. I get afraid, guilty, and ashamed, and then I get angry.
Of course their crying isn't anything to do with any of those feelings. Their feelings are their feelings. Again, with the manifesto - keep myself separate. And know that I'm keeping myself separate. Because part of the problem was that I thought I was reacting to them, but no, I was really reacting to ME. I'm almost never aware of the flicker of inner voice - I'm such a raging extrovert that I rarely know what I'm going to say until I hear it - which would be after I said it. So, the subterranean mutter of 'you can't do this' and 'you're failing' and 'anyone looking at your child right now would think you are failing - even if you don't believe it, they WILL, and they'll all turn and look and shake their heads and talk behind their hands and throw disapproving glances...'
Makes me want to scrub my brain with a vegetable brush. But like cockroaches, those thoughts will just flee, and still be there. They have to be engaged, not wiped away. I have some practice eliminating guilt, shame, fear, and rage in other areas of my life. I know that the only way to deal with them is to name them. Name them, welcome them, hold them up for everyone to see (myself included), and ... and they dissolve, dissipate like mist, evaporate. Not even a shriveled rind remains when I do that - and it only takes a few cycles to make it work.
Interesting, that I started out thinking that the skills I needed were for the external process - the spotting the distress earlier (in both me and my child), working my way through the process without getting to the distress in the first place. BUT, there will always be times when we misfire. So... so, still need a method for then. And even once I got to that thought, I was thinking the wrong process. It is the little voice thing that I need to deal with, not my child's voice. Or even my voice.
Consciously, I mainly don't care what other people think of my parenting. But below that level, I do care. I want to be good at this. As an extrovert, I don't quite believe (or trust) that I'm good at something until or unless someone else says I am, until I get the public praise or the award to put on my desk. The process has to come in my ears and eyes to know it is true - the internal process requires external validation. Complicating that, I find that trying to trust myself too much on it makes me prone to coasting. Instead of demanding an award (seriously, no awards in parenting), I've chosen instead to just not be totally sure of myself. I'm okay with not being 100% positive that I know what I'm doing. I in fact, am far more comfortable with knowing that I'm making it up as I go along. I might be good at making it up, but I'm making it up.
and another tangle... Thinking that I have a really good grasp on this - in
the moment - is hubris. And pride comes before a parental face-plant. (The 'we rock' post was right before the 'face plant' one,
no?). at the same time (again, the back and forth of the see saw of observations), it is all back and forth - I've got it, no I don't, yes I do, no I don't. For every up, a down. Parenthood is a constant flow of qi, rotating from black to white, never ending in the ebb and flow of success-and-rest and fail-and-scramble, and always with just a little 'crud' in the 'WOO!' and a little 'I'm not totally sucky' in the 'wow, I blew that one'.
Now, I go back to my methods, and draw the line between me and thee. Extract the internal voice, recognize it as my own, and deal with it separately from the kids.
So, yeah, definitely a weak point there.
Which means more work to tease out the injury, and more to figure out how to recover the strength that should have been, and then time, and practice, and more time, and more practice.
And in the meantime, remembering to look for the behaviors that set me off, cue to when my internal pressure goes up.
One thing at a time, though. I'll start with listening for the inner voice, and just observing what I'm feeling, thinking, believing... before I lock up.