A year ago this month I received a call for help from one of my own kids. They no longer lived on Vancouver Island so it wasn’t as though I could go and rescue them! In the ongoing telephone calls of support I learned of a cat that this kid found solace with. I loved that cat sight unseen!
As plans were made to helicopter this kid out of this situation, I realized the cat would be left, however, I knew that she would be visiting me at some point. Two to three months later this kid came to stay with me and we made plans to pick up the cat.
The arrival of this small cat was interesting. She entered as a warrior and strutted around the house like she owned it even though she had never seen it before. Her tail stood straight out for days and was hard and inflexible. She behaved like a feral cat. After two weeks I stood looking at her and told myself that I had to let her go. I told myself I couldn’t tolerate this and that I had given her enough, yet she hadn’t changed. Then another inner voice questioned me and said, “Really! What about the empathy that you have for your students and clients that help them experience transformation.”
Hearing that question I committed to not labeling this cat and to become more empathetic with her. I realized that her behavior was scaring me. I had expected a warm and loving cat and what came was a distant, cold warrior! So I became warm and loving. I anticipated her needs until she began asking for things that she needed. They was an immediate shift! One day she came up to me at eye level and searched my eyes for a long time. I can only imagine that she was seeking reassurance. Over this year I have witnessed and experienced a complete transformation as she settles. She still has a wild nature however I am learning that means she needs to play!
I would have never thought I would become that person who talks about her cat. Well I do! My other kid who still lives off the island, which means our visits are by phone and on-line, receives many pictures and stories of the latest heart warming moments with this cat I experience!
As the anniversary date approaches I have become aware that the kid that came home has also gone through their own transformation. Prior to coming home I gave some consideration to their status as my kid. I wondered and worried if it was my job to tell them everything they were doing wrong and what they needed to fix. You know, being mom! Well I quickly threw that thought into the rubbish! I decided to accept, empathize and to love unconditionally. However, what I did decide to do is ask for my needs to be met as they arose in the present!
I began to listen for their needs more closely. As the kitty cat transformed, so did this kid. There is more confidence, self-respect, self-assurance and self-love demonstrated. Rather than impart my wisdom on what I think they should be doing, they approach me when they are ready and ask for empathy and/or advice. The story that unfolds in front of me is of how they are managing their relationships differently and being more assertive in creating their own boundaries in a non-violent or abusive way. They are also addressing the abusive nature of others reactions in a clear more productive way!
Don’t get me wrong, I do ask questions way about some things that are important for me and that I think could benefit them, however it is not in a way that they feel I know what’s best for them. It is simply a check in to find out what is important for them.
As my youngest left home, I had four months on my own without kids. Having this one move back was a no-brain-or for me however, I wondered what it would mean. You know, what would I have to give up? Well I am happy to admit to you and myself that I have gained a loving and supportive relationship with a kid that I thought I had lost as they went their own way.
One of the ways that deepened this relationship was their observation of how I was with their cat, believe it or not. Many times I saw them look at the two of us, the cat and I, in a funny way. They had left home with a perception of mom that was based upon their own experience of wanting (not getting their needs met). Now they where actually witnessing a different pattern than what they interpreted in their teen years when we had opposing needs! As they started to recognize the loving connection between the cat and I, they allowed themselves to experience the loving connection that they didn’t know or forgotten was there!
This cat has created the experience that I imagine most moms and kids experience with grand-babies! Taking care of my own children gave me the opportunity to have empathy for my own parents and now I wonder if grand-babies would also enhance compassion and understanding! My parents were gone prior to the birth of my children so I will have to experience it with my kids, kids!
What about your parenting experiences? Are you letting your children have autonomy? Are you building relationships with your young adult children or are you still trying to parent them?
I began a personal practice of Nonviolent Communication in my home in 2001. My children where five and 7 and one – half years old. I believe those studying Nonviolent Communication in the Greater Victoria Region all began in around 1999. For me, I believe my children and others whose parents began studying at the same time, have been immersed in this communication through the modeling of the parents through out their life. Therefore it is in their behavior and apart of their cultural understanding. I have observed a huge difference in their behavior and that of myself and those I grew up with.
Transitioning from Language of Conflict into Language of Connection (based on Nonviolent Communication)