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Learning from your child

by Jo Wilkie

Speaking of moments, let me pick up where I left off. My daughter now has an art box that she adores and uses often. I am a better parent for developing a deeper level of curiosity about who she is (instead of who I think she is). This, of course, is all about mindfulness and being in the present moment, where creative action and change can happen. Another case in point is the hair brushing incident, as I fondly refer to it now…

One of the ways my daughter is significantly different than me is her hair. My daughter has beautiful, curly hair – golden brown ringlets that frame her face perfectly. I have short, straight hair and do not use a brush. In fact, I avoid brushes at all costs. Fortunately for Susanne, she didn’t really start needing her hair combed until she was about 3. Prior to that, she didn’t have enough hair for it to tangle or do anything else, for that matter. Which is my sort of hairstyle.

Once her hair got long enough that it obviously required some regular attention and care, I tried a stupid baby brush with soft bristles. Nothing. All it did was create frizz and leave the dread-lock like tangles in place. So, I decided, on the spot, that using a comb to get tangles out (with water and conditioner sprayed on her hair first) was the best solution.

Never mind that my daughter screamed bloody murder when I would comb her hair – I thought she was OVERREACTING. After all, I would hold the base of small sections of her hair and then gently comb through the tangles at the end. Still, lots of heartache and frustration, every morning, for both of us (no, Erick NEVER combs hair – clear division of duty). We both dreaded the hair-readiness time of morning.

But recently all that changed. We were on an overnight trip and, in the morning, I was shuffling around, looking for the comb and realized I had forgotten the comb. I was cursing under my breath, because we were going to an event where there was a good chance newspapers were going to get pictures of Susanne, as Mark was speaking. Italians like well-groomed children. And, I like moderately well groomed children. It just so happens that her hair was REALLY bad that morning, and NEEDED some fixing.

Since I am growing my hair out, I happened to bring a brush with hard bristles to tame my wacky bang cowlicks during blowdrying (that is the ONLY thing I use a brush for). In desperation, I sprayed Susanne’s hair down and proceeded to brush her hair. Which I was CONVINCED would not work.

Two things happened:
1. The brush did, in fact, work. Beautifully. Actually better and faster than the stupid comb ever did.
2. Susanne didn’t cry. Not one “OW” escaped her lips. It was the most peaceful hair brushing we’ve ever had.

As with the art box, I felt elation over this fabulous discovery (a brush!! A BRUSH WORKS!), and then felt a fairly overwhelming wave of “duh”. Why NOT try something different if the experience I’m having sucks and is totally difficult? Why? Because I’m human, that’s why. We all tend to keep doing things that support our beliefs, like “Hair brushing is painful and hurts and that is JUST THE WAY IT IS.” A silly example, perhaps, but obviously I was completely hooked by this and it took accidental forgetfulness to figure out it could be different. I do this to myself all the time, and I suspect that other people do, too, unconsciously.

Does any of this sound familiar? Are there any experiences that you have on a regular basis that are just downright unpleasant? Have you resigned yourself in a, “That’s just the way it is.” sort of way? The homework I’ve given myself since the brush incident is to notice when I am NOT having a pleasant experience and step back to evaluate whether there is a way for me to a. change the situation or b. change the way I think about the situation.

Care to join me? Have you had your own moments? What “that’s just the way it is” experience would you like to change? Share in the comments.

Next up in this series: Me, impatient? Come on… Hurry up!

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