If I could only ask her what she meant by that…

written by Wendy McDonnell

Inspired by hearing others speak about their mothers, I was thinking about the things my Mom used to say. You’ve probably heard these before. Maybe, like me, you’ve caught yourself saying them yourself.

Don’t make me stop this car.
Close that door! We don’t live in a barn!
Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.
This hurts me more than it hurts you.

Now that I am a mom and love my Mom very much, I wanted to try my hand at translating her words.
I share this because I want to love and understand my Mom. Perhaps this’ll resonate with you too.

I’m overwhelmed and doing the best I can do.
I’m saying the things that others said to me because I think I should.
Those are the only words coming to me when I feel stressed and exhausted.
I’m afraid, vulnerable, and afraid to tell you how I’m feeling and ask for what I need.
I don’t have all the answers and I think I should.
I’m uncomfortable asking for help. I want to trust that my needs matter.

My Mom died 6 years ago. I wish I could ask her if that’s what she meant.

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” Henry David Thoreau

“The key is to not resist or rebel against emotions or to try to get around them by devising all sorts of tricks; but to accept them directly, as they are.” Takahisa Kora

We can create the space to engage with each other when we are in conflict so we can look through each other’s eyes. When two or more people live together, conflict is inevitable. Sure, some conflict is preventable. Some is not. Why not prepare to engage conflict? We have food in our fridge for times when we feel hungry or ask for a hug when we need closeness. Conflict also needs space and a plan.

Dominic Barter speaks about Restorative Circles (www.restorativecircles.org) a Restorative Justice model developed in Brazil. It’s been a very creative and compassionate way to engage with painful conflict in our family.
Dominic Barter writes:
“It is common for our responses to conflict to be organised around the desire to bring security and healing to those involved, and thus to focus on resolving conflict. This seems obvious only because it is a given for most people that conflict is problematic…Restorative Circles engage non-adversarily with the complex and often intense reactions to what was done. …They then seed new action. One consequence of this is to see conflict not as something that needs to be changed or managed, but as the expression of crucial feedback about personal and communal well being.”

Read the whole Restorative Circles Blog Post by Dominic Barter: Dedicated Spaces for Having Conflict and the video (4 mins, 42 seconds) http://www.restorativecircles.org/dedicated-spaces-for-having-conflict

Conflict is not the problem. Conflict alerts us that we have something very important to fight about. What do we value? What are we drawn to? Translating our words and actions into what’s important for us can help us to move from conflict to taking care of ourselves and our relationships.

Perhaps my mother may have said, “I’m feeling scared when I hear that volume in the car. Safety is important to me. Would you be willing to use a talking voice while we’re driving? Otherwise, I will park this car until I feel safe to go.”

If I had noticed my mother’s pursed lips, I may have asked, “Do you feel overwhelmed by our yelling because you want to drive safely? Hey everyone! Let’s keep our voices down until we get to the park!”

After that, if the conflict remains, I have hope that we can gather to talk about what we were looking for when we did what we did and share how we are about that now.
What space does conflict have in your family?

“Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.” Mother Teresa

About Wendy McDonnell

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