The S.T.U.C.K. Method

Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being


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STUCK on Wanting to Parent YOUR Child

The pool season has begun on Kibbutz Hannaton.

Many parents (including myself) bring food up to the pool and share it with others.

Yesterday, I brought some goodies from home including some delicious, ripe cherries.

Everyone went wild.

Teenagers approached me with, “Can I have some?”

Young children approached me with, “I want some, please.”

Toddlers approached me by holding out their hands and saying, “Please.”

And of course, I shared (happily) with one and all.

I even gave seconds to those who returned for more.

But, I found myself having an issue with one child.

Who (for whatever reason, apparently even his own parents don’t understand) is afraid to ask me for anything.

And apparently, I’m not supposed to take it personally.

It’s not me.

It’s him (the parents tell me).

That is, he’s afraid to ask for things from any other adult (when his parents are present).

Yes.

When his parents are around, he’s afraid to ask for things on his own.

When his parents are not around, he’s another child completely… happy, care-free, and confident.

It’s a recurring behavior that I’ve noticed and to be honest, I’ve started to get annoyed by it.

Why does his parent have to approach me with a somewhat slow and baby-ish voice, “Shira, our son is really scared to ask for cherries (or crackers, or popcorn, or carrots, or anything else) that you’re offering.  So, I’m asking for him.  Can he have some, please?”

And, I always acquiesce.

I always put my judgmental thoughts to the side.

Because, well, I’m not his parent.

And, I’m certainly not going to parent him in front of his own parents.

Until yesterday.

teach

When after round 2, the father approached me (once again in that baby-ish, pleading tone), “Shira, my son would really like more.  Can he have some, please?”

“REALLY???” I responded, which probably came across quite obnoxious.

“Really?” I looked at the kid.

“I think you can ask me for some more cherries,” I encouraged him.  “I’m your friend.  I sometimes babysit for you.  You play with my children.  I’m your mom’s friend.  We live next door to each other!  You’re in my house all the time!  For sure you don’t have to ask your mom or dad to ask for you for some cherries.”

“Why don’t we give it a try?” I suggested.

“I’ll count to 3, and you just say, ‘please’ and then I’ll give you some cherries.”

“Want to?”

All I got in return was a quizzical look.

But, I counted anyway.

And at 3, when he didn’t respond, I encouraged him to try again.

But, he just turned his head away from me (trying to win this battle, are ya? I thought to myself).

So, I walked away.  (This’ll make him learn, I thought to myself.)

I gave out more cherries to those who wanted (and asked!).

And then, only a few cherries remained.

I felt badly for what I did.

So, I returned to the child.

And told him I came back specifically to give him the remaining cherries, if he wanted them.

But, that I didn’t know.

Until he asked.

I gave him a few seconds to ask, but then he just started bawling and crying to his father to ask for him.

And while the father was trying to get to the bottom of this, my child (who hadn’t had any cherries yet, asked for some and I allowed him to take the few that were left).

So, in other words, the boy was left with nothing.

(Though, don’t forget, he already had 2 handfuls.)

I left the scene leaving two confused parents and one hysterical little boy behind.

And as I walked home, I questioned what the heck I just did.

Did I do the right thing?

Or, was my “parenting-ego” in the way and I just totally screwed up?

So, I Stopped and took a deep breath.

I Told myself how I was feeling and checked what may be Underneath it all (frustrated with this child’s recurring behavior.)

And considered if I could have Chosen another perspective:

  • That perhaps the parents are working through this issue with their son;
  • That perhaps the parents don’t mind asking for things for their child;
  • That perhaps the parents have no clue to the source of this behavior, but believe it’s going to pass soon enough and so they’re consciously not making a big issue about it;
  • That perhaps it’s not my role to parent other children, when their parents are right by their side.

Had I gone through this stuck process then, I know I wouldn’t have made a big deal out of this scene in the first place (just like I haven’t done over the past few months with this same child) and I would’ve just given the cherries to the boy when the father approached me for the third time.

****************

So, last night I sent a letter to the parent apologizing for my behavior and acknowledging that it would have been best had I not said a thing and just handed the cherries to their son when he requested.

I acknowledged that I was just trying to help out, but realized that I was really just imposing my parenting style on him, which wasn’t right.

I was nervous about the response, but actually was relieved and delighted to learn that my friend not only accepted my apology, he encouraged me not to worry about it.  He thanked me for caring enough to write such an email and reinforced that they (as parents) are purposefully not making a big deal out it, believing that when he’s ready, he’ll ask on his own.

***************

One of the things that I’m learning most about this STUCK process is that no matter how many times I catch myself, no matter how many times I reflect on what happens in my life with a sense of honesty and awareness, the opportunities for getting stuck don’t diminish. They’re always out there.  Everyday.  Several times a day at a minimum. I just need to keep practicing to wake up to them in order to learn how not to react to them in an automatic fashion.

And so, again, I take some dedicated time to just sit.

On purpose.

And do nothing else.

So that when these moments arise, I can feel comfortable with that familiar place of non-reacting/non-doing.

And acknowledge the many benefits that this practice brings to this world.

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STUCK on a Beggar

Down the street from Hannaton, the closest junction actually, stands a beggar.

Not everyday.

But often enough.

She’s covered from head to toe in a burqa (the enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions to cover their bodies when in public.)

And she stands with a newborn in her arms (even on the coldest days of winter) watching the traffic light to turn red.

Her cue.

To come tapping at your window and stare at you with her open palm

and wait.

Until either you roll down your window and give her a shekel or two,

Or you ignore her long enough and she moves on to the next car.

I don’t know how much she’s earning from this “work”, but I can tell you she’s been standing at this junction for quite some time.

Almost like a part-time job.

Apparently the police has been called.

Allegedly she comes from the West Bank.

And here I am stuck on judging her.

“Why are you standing here, so close to my home?  Why aren’t you standing somewhere farther away where I won’t see you?”

“Why are you holding a new born baby?  Don’t you know that’s dangerous?  Don’t you realize it’s unhealthy for the baby to be inhaling fumes from the vehicles? Do you honestly think you’re going to gain any compassion from me just because you’re holding a baby?”

“Why don’t you just look for a job, just like I am?”

“Why do you think you have the right to bother me?”

Yup.

There I was again.

Stuck on judging.

Could I change my perspective?

I knew I had to.

Unless I wanted to continue “suffering”.

I tried.

I really did.

Yet, I kept returning to the aforementioned judgments and couldn’t see the situation in any other light.

*********

So, I decided to reach out to a few friends of mine with whom I am participating in a “mussar” group  – (“a Jewish path of contemplative practices and exercises that have evolved over the past thousand years in which the individual focuses on one personality trait or characteristic in order to release the light of holiness that lives within each soul”.)

By chance, the week I reached out to my friends, we were working on “judging others favorably”.

How ironic.

My friends were quite empathic to the situation, stating “it can feel invasive or bothersome when people beg for money” and were also graciously willing to offer some insight or guidance to me, suggesting “it does make us face the horrible reality that there are people in this world, and even more so – so close to my home – that don’t have food or shelter.”

Jamie wrote, “For me, in these types of situations, I remind myself that we don’t know the person’s back story.   G-d forbid any of these things…  Maybe she has a serious illness and has been unable to work… maybe she has a husband who is ill and cannot work and she has to stay home…. maybe she has an abusive husband who forces her to beg… or maybe she is lazy and does not want to work….  Does it matter?”

Shoshana acknowledged that a person’s experiences, unknown to us, can push them to behave in a way that is difficult for us.

Then, she wisely cautioned, “It is imperative that the infant’s (relative) safety has been seen to and that the mother’s behavior isn’t deemed excessively risky by police or other officials.  If there is any question regarding significant danger to the infant, it is important for people to know that they are each empowered – and responsible – to call – again and again if necessary, to the police or other local authorities.”

Edite shared that because of our email exchange (and being part of the mussar group), she’s learning how to be more aware of how often she judges and from that learning how to challenge her thoughts more often.

My friends shed light for me on this situation and helped me realized how difficult I have with the concept of  “belief”. (Remember, the snow in Nazareth?)

Of course, my friends are right.

I don’t know this woman’s situations.

And the truth is, I don’t need to.

It doesn’t matter that I can’t see this woman’s home situation, I can still believe that she’s in an unfortunate enough of a situation to have to spend her days standing on a street corner, newborn baby in arms, begging for money.

My friends brought such light to this experience for me that my heart wanted to go find this woman.  I wanted to run immediately to the junction say to her, “Look. I judged you.  And, I’m sorry about that.  I don’t know your circumstances, and the truth is I don’t really need to know.  I believe you.  I know you need help.  Please take this money and be well.”

I really wanted to do that.

But I couldn’t.

Because she hasn’t shown up in quite a while.

Hannaton Junction

And so, I haven’t had the chance to share my revelations with this woman.

To apologize.

And to wish her well.

Her disappearance almost made me feel sad, like an opportunity has been lost to bring love and light to the world.

But, I realize that truly nothing has been lost.

Only gained.

A new perspective.

Belief.

Compassion.

and understanding.

And hope, for the next time I come face to face with her or any other beggar for that matter.

Where I won’t be a slave to judgment, but rather be free to just accept not knowing.