My Own Redemption - C.U.E. #11

My Own Redemption - C.U.E. #11

The good news from last Friday night is that I have another Consciously Unskilled Episode to share. (These are yummy posts in which I share a slip-up, how I made good and what I am taking forward. Check out the other ten; here's the first.)

The bad news . . . actually there is none, come to think of it. Yes, we both were in pain but, because I apologized and shared my learnings, my daughter Claudia (13) learned quite a few lessons:

  • When I express my displeasure, Mom listens to me (however late). My needs matter.
  • I can be congruent and exhibit on the outside what is churning in my heart and brain. The world is safe.
  • Mom wrangled honestly with her blameful messages to me, and then she picked up and went on with the night’s activities. Self-forgiveness helps us cope.
  • It was hard going there with the raised voices but, in the end, we were smiling and even remarking on the long hiatus since the last incident. Conflicts can result in closeness. 

The Missteps

Friday nights, I teach Youth Effectiveness Training to a wild and achingly beautiful bunch of kids, ages 13-17. Early in the day, as I was touching up my lesson plan our printer stopped working, setting me back an hour or so.

Then I ran off to yoga, only to get stuck in traffic and miss the class (plus get docked for a late cancellation). Since I was out already, I decided to sit in a mall reviewing the upcoming session, then did a quick grocery shopping before picking up Claudia from school.

As soon as she stepped into the car, she asked if we could finish watching The Shawshank Redemption. We had begun it the day before. “Ok, let’s try,” I said, without thinking too deeply about why I was hesitant. “But I have to take a shower first and get my stuff ready, ok?”

As I was blowdrying my hair, I realized my binder was still in the car! I returned with it feeling flustered and, when Claudia called me over, I said curtly, “Fine, but let’s watch in 30 minute intervals because my work’s not done.” (On Thursday she had agreed to toggle like this between the film and work/homework.)

She nodded and we settled onto the couch, getting really into it . . . 

Well, wouldn’t you know it!! The timer went off right at a cliffhanger!! (No spoilers here.) As Claudia writhed in agony, I pressed pause and ran back to the study to complete my preparations. With only 30 minutes to go before we had to leave, I still wasn’t packed up. There was another half hour of the movie left.

“Sorry, Claudia, I don’t think I can watch,” I delivered the bad news.

“What?!" She was crushed. "Mom, you said we could! We stopped just at the important part!”

With heat rising, I changed tack. “Alright, then I’m gonna need your help." Thus commenced a steady stream of orders. "Can you pack this bag? Hurry and clear the table and load the dishwasher." When she disappeared, I yelled from the kitchen, "Why are you taking so long? We are running out of time! We wanna try to finish the movie, right?”

“Mom," she came out of the hallway, protesting. "I was in the bathroom getting ready! I didn’t hear you.”

“Well," I argued back, "if you wanted to do everything, you could have been doing stuff during the break. In fact, you could have taken initiative and offered to help!” I knew I was Preaching, but I just couldn't help Roadblocking in this way.

“I didn’t know you needed help! Why are you trying to blame me now?!" Claudia challenged me. "If you don’t want to watch the movie just say so but don’t put it on me!”

"Well, you were whining so much so it seemed like you really wanted to watch the movie!" I shot back, living out what Thomas Gordon wrote:

For many parents, it is much easier to hide their feelings under a You-Message that puts the blame on the child than to expose their own human-ness.
— Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children, page 136


"Anyone would have whined if they had to stop at that part!" Claudia insisted in a rising voice.

It finally clicked. My daughter had a point. Quite a number of points, actually.

Screenshot 2017-03-07 19.58.30.png

The Repair

I took a couple of deep breaths.

“I’m sorry, you’re right," I conceded. "You didn’t force me to agree, and then I started screaming all these commands like it was a real emergency. I even made it harder by insisting the kitchen was clean before we left so I put more pressure on us!"

Claudia was not going to let me off that easily.

“Why did you even change your mind in the first place if you knew you weren’t going to follow through? And I didn’t really whine. I think any person would feel frustrated ending the movie where we did and having to wait.”

I Active Listened that:

“You were really looking forward to it and don’t appreciate the fact that I seemed to be implying you were being immature or selfish or unreasonable. It would have been hard for anyone to stop where we did and you had a lot of self-control so my reaction didn’t seem fair."

She exhaled.

So did I, as I wondered aloud slowly, “Where . . . was . . . that . . . in . . . the . . . Behavior Window? . . . When you got upset, I could have realized it was a Conflict of Needs and Active Listened you and we could have found another way to meet everyone’s needs without me playing the victim. Sorry.

 In "We Both Own Problem/Conflict of Needs," the first step of a Method III Problem Solve is Active Listening. I didn't do that because I had forgotten to pause and ask myself  Who Owns the Problem?

In "We Both Own Problem/Conflict of Needs," the first step of a Method III Problem Solve is Active Listening. I didn't do that because I had forgotten to pause and ask myself Who Owns the Problem?

Then I shared a bit using Declarative I-Messages, which helped her see the real me, the younger me, in fact.

“I grew up always trying to please and when people weren’t happy it was really stressful. So I was trying to bend over backward to let you finish the movie before Y.E.T. but clearly I wasn’t comfortable, and then I slipped into being passive aggressive. I am still working on changing myself.”

I gathered up my class materials. At the elevators, I put down my bags and pressed the button. “Whew. That hasn’t happened in a while,” I sighed.

She jumped right in, “I guess that’s something to be happy about, the fact that it’s been so long.” And then my Claudia smiled at me.

Screenshot 2017-03-07 19.55.57.png

The Take-Away

Take a moment in the No Problem Area to head off problems

Catherine, pause. P . . A . . U . . S. . E. Attend to yourself and your feelings.

What’s not sitting right with you, Catherine? Do you foresee a time crunch? Is there something you want to say now? 

Try to do this even BEFORE problems happen. 

As we like to say in our family, it’s all about expectations. I could have managed Claudia's and mine better if, as soon as she plopped into the car, I had given her a Preventive I-Message:

"Hi honey. I am running behind and worried I won't be able to get all my work done AND finish the movie before we leave."

And then, like we just discussed in class recently, I could have waited to see if Claudia had any ideas that would help me meet my needs (and hers too). 

Gotta do some self-healing

I've written before about how Claudia's whining gets to me. Clearly, I still have some work to do unearthing the button that Claudia may have pressed but did not install! 

That button says it’s dangerous when someone is upset and perilous to assert my needs.

That button tries to convince me that it makes more sense to wait for others to figure out what’s bothering me and change their behavior accordingly.

That button's been around a long time.

I took action on Sunday not willingly but kicking and screaming -- and crying -- thrown into the self-work by yet another flare-up with my daughter. That's when I bit the bullet.

While she was at piano, I sat down on my bed, determined to plow through a round of Byron Katie's method from her book Loving What Is. Reflecting with her guiding questions helped reveal the core beliefs driving my behavior. The best part was when I turned them around to capture what is really true and to touch base with what I want for myself and my relationship with Claudia.

After doing what Katie aptly calls "The Work," I was able to forgive myself and change my energy to believe that the rest of the evening would be different. And it was! When I apologized to Claudia after piano, it was deeply genuine and so was her acceptance. I felt redeemed.

Some might lament that I had to “ruin” one hour of my precious alone time (see my Perfectly Good Day series) but it was the best darn hour I spent all weekend. 

I may not have removed the button entirely, but I have a shovel placed squarely under it and have given it a good heave.

I thank Claudia (a pseudonym) for approving this post and for working with me as I grow. xoxo

Credits: Banana peel (; Tools (; Take-away boxes (; Robert Frost quote (