Why is it so scary to tell the truth?
The water is running for an usually long time in the bathroom. Never a good sign when you have a five year old and you’re just waking up. I groggily plod in to check it out, “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Shaman Boy replies, not very convincingly, while quickly shutting off the water.
I look around to assess, my mama radar on high alert despite the early hour. There’s a bizarre gummy substance smeared on the floor. “What’s that? I ask, genuinely puzzled. Shaman Boy loves to get into the shampoos and make concoctions, but this doesn’t quite look like one of those.
“I don’t know,” he insists. I give him the mommy look.
Eventually he tells me there was a hole in his overnight pull-up diaper and the gel came out. He tried to clean it up and he washed his hands, really, really, well. Okay. So he’s learned to clean up his messes (or at least try to), but how did he get a hole in his pull-ups?
“I don’t know,” he tells me again, chin quivering slightly. I sigh. This is not how I want to start my day, but I have the sense that this is one of those ripe parenting moments. It’s important that he tell me the truth – he likes to be evasive when he feels like he’s done something wrong that he doesn’t want to fess up to.
I keep pressing him for an answer. He tells me a diaper fairy made the hole. That he’s a phoenix and if I give him a gift, he’ll tell me the answer.
I’m starting to get annoyed and want to threaten a consequence if he doesn’t tell me.
But then I realize that this is what he fears. He thinks he’s going to get in trouble. And he doesn’t want me to be upset with him. Like most of us humans, he likes having the love and approval of his parental units – or of friends, coworkers, bosses, family.
Later that day, I lose it with Shaman Guy. (Sorry, honey.) He makes a comment that sets me off. This is pretty rare in our relationship, so I take some time to figure out where the heck that came from.
Ah, with some gentle probing, I see I’ve held back on commenting on some minor incidents that have bothered me over the past few weeks. Partly due to trying to find the right time to talk, but mostly because I have a completely irrational fear that Shaman Guy will be displeased. Some batty part of me fears he won’t love me anymore if I speak up – which if you know Shaman Guy – or our relationship – is totally loony.
I cry, I journal, I try to clear on what’s been bothering me. I write down my long list of what he’s been doing that I don’t like. What he should change.
Now, I know, know, know that whatever is going on isn’t about Shaman Guy. When I’m annoyed or judgmental about the world, I know, know, know that it’s a reflection of what’s going on within me. I know, know, know that if I want the world to change, I need to change myself – not try to change another (let’s face it, that never works.)
But here’s where I often trip myself up. The “I know, know, know” doesn’t change the way I feel. And in order to change the way I feel, I first need to acknowledge it. And that means speaking the truth to myself.
I breathe deep.
It’s an act of courage to articulate what I don’t like. To admit to myself that I don’t like it. To let go of my idea that I’m too evolved to get pissed. To let it all hang out on paper. So I vent about what’s been annoying me about him.
I cry some more. I take a break and come back to read it several hours later. I ask myself what I need. “To feel valued and respected.” I hear a faint expectation lingering at the end, “by him…”
I look carefully at each gripe about Shaman Guy and see how I can reframe it so that it turns into the real truth. “I want to feel valued and respected – by me.” How could I give myself what I needed? I could value all I do and contribute to my family more. I could respect what I want to do and not sacrifice that for the sake of the family. I could do a better job caring for myself – yoga, meditation, time for the projects I love. And I could give myself the gold stars I was craving.
Telling the truth to myself often means that I have to break some images I hold onto dearly. I have to admit that I’m not always right. That despite being so spiritual, I still am a human with messy feelings. That I’m not really too busy to do the activities that my heart yearns to do.
Now that is telling the truth. Getting real with myself. The truth felt delicious. Digging deeper and deeper felt freeing.
Being authentic with how I truly feel transformed the whole situation. It originally felt scary to talk to Shaman Guy about the bee in my bonnet. Now communicating my a-ha to Shaman Guy now doesn’t feel scary. It felt scary to allow myself to feel what I was feeling. But now valuing and caring for myself feels more doable. And I’m guessing that when I do share with Shaman Guy, our conversation is going to produce much better results that my first list of ways he should shape up, don’t you think?
Back to Shaman Boy: I still hadn’t gotten to the bottom of the pull-up mystery and I contemplated giving up. I thought about getting Shaman Guy involved. Then I decided to just slow down and wait it out. I pulled Shaman Boy into my lap, away from the toys he was fiddling with in an attempt to avoid the truth.
“I love and care about you. It’s important to me that I can trust you to tell me the truth. That gel isn’t meant to come out of the diapers so I want to know what happened so it won’t happened again,” I tell my fidgety boy.
Finally Shaman Boy confesses. He didn’t want to take his warm pajamas off, so he decided to cut off his pull-up with scissors, which I had done once before. Only instead of cutting off the tabs on the sides, he cut through the absorbent part and made a mess.
With his confession came the tears. I articulate what I imagine he is feeling. “You made a mistake and thought you’d get in trouble. It was an accident and you thought I’d be mad at you. But you did the right thing. You cleaned it up and now you know that you can’t cut that part of your pull-up.”
“Yes-es—ssss,” he sobs into my shoulder.
I rock him back and forth. “You were scared to tell the truth, but once you did, you saw that it was okay and I still love you.”
He lets out a shuddery sigh. He whole body relaxes, “Yes.”
I pat his back. “I know how you feel, buddy. I know how you feel.”
Here’s to finding the courage to tell the truth Shaman Girls, scary bits and all,