Flexibility is for the birds, not for me?
Updated: Nov 5, 2018
Change is difficult for both children and adults. It brings about some level of anxiety because change, both small and big, can take us out of our comfortable and familiar routines.
A new school year is a time that brings several changes for our children to manage, such as, a new teacher, changes to family time, new classmates, different routines, and more. Even adults experience stress and anxiety when routines are changed on them.
All of this anxiety and nervousness can cause our kids to act a little out of the norm. They maybe more “whiny”, “irritable”, or just “needy”. None of that sounds very fun to me. I don’t know how you react, but even writing those words causes frustration to rise up within me to resist it all.
A week before school began, our daughter really began to struggle with staying in her bed, relaxing, and sleeping. Most nights, her routine of reading, praying, singing and saying “Goodnight”, worked perfectly. She would sweetly say, “I love you, good night, see you in the morning,” and then I would be able to go watch a show or spend time connecting with my wife.
However, over this past week this changed and she started to jump out of bed within minutes saying she couldn’t get to sleep. Sometimes this would happen for a few hours. I regret to say over those hours my frustration and anger would rise and I would become louder in an attempt to resist my daughter’s newfound routine.
Most of the time her request of both my wife and I was that she wanted to be near us by one of us staying with her or by her coming to our room. Everything within me said, “No Way!” We are not changing our routine.” I thought, “I love our routine and you need to get back to what we were doing. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?”
“Why are you doing this to me?” What an interesting question. What exactly is she doing to me other than asking me to spend a little more time with her before she goes to bed? She told us she was feeling nervous about the upcoming school year and all the unknowns that entails.
My wife and I love that our daughter can verbalize how she feels and what she needs to help her, but I just didn’t like what she was asking. I felt like she was asking too much and resistance rose up in me when the moment really needed flexibility. What she was asking me to do wasn’t going to last a life time.
She was basically saying, “Dad, a lot is changing in my life and flexibility is a difficult skill to master, will you show me how to do it? Will you model the skills of flexibility and empathy to me and spend a few minutes with me helping me calm my racing mind?”
I am proud to say that after a little gentle nudging from my wife I am now spending time with my daughter helping her go to sleep. She is sleeping better now and I am finding I enjoy the time with her.
Although relaxing, watching a show and connecting with my wife are an important part of my own self-care and healthy marriage, they can be briefly adjusted to help my daughter know what flexibility, understanding, empathy, and love look and feel like.
Taking a stand is something I do pretty well and naturally, but flexibility is something that comes a little harder to me. I am glad my daughter gave me the opportunity to practice it. During times of much change, flexibility can be a quality that eases the transition.