It is such a treat to have days off to be able to drive and chaperone outings like this and Katy and I had a great time together until we left. The class went long and there was only 45 minutes left in the school day. As we left the shop and headed to the car, I told Katy that we would just be going home since it would be silly to drive 15 minutes back to school and then back home again to be there for some cartoons being shown back in class to fill the time.
Well, you know what happened. Katy lost it. She went from exuberant to freaking out in about five seconds. And then so did I. Well at least internally. To an insider, I'm sure I seemed calm, but I didn't really handle the tantrum as well as I could have. I didn't take any deep breaths. I just got mad. I stood my ground and I felt very stuck in an adamant feeling that I would not be letting this bossy little girl push me around. After a minute of loud arguing in front of the store (and me feeling very embarrassed about the other grown-ups seeing this messy scene) we got in the car. Things settled down as we drove home.
The next day, I was talking to a fellow teacher about this event. She told me that when her two-year old has tantrums, he won't take deep breaths or calm down when asked to. She says to him, "Let's lay down together." They do and that decelerates the tantrum. What a wise thing to do, I thought. I thought about how I had handled the situation. I just got caught up in the negative vibe and didn't even think to handle it calmly and take some deep breaths. This was partly due to the fact that the tantrum was public, so I was feeling self-conscious about others witnessing the scene, and I was also a bit overstimulated from the cupcake workshop. I'm not going to keep beating up on myself, but I do realize how much work I still have to do on myself to get to the point where I handle conflict better.
This area for growth comes up in my work as an elementary school teacher, as well. I am not very good at getting a student who is upset to cooperate. I just tend to get panicked, issue directions and hope s/he will comply. When that doesn't work, I end up having to get another adult to assist me. Then I feel ashamed for not being able to manage the situation competently. This happened the other day and I watched how the other teacher took control. She wasn't stressed. She knelt down to the student's level and asked him what was going on, showed care and empathy, and things quickly turned around in the interaction. "Why didn't I do that?" I thought. It was because I was afraid and that, in effect, turned off my pre-frontal cortex and prevented me from having a smart and effective response.
I talk a lot about mindfulness, and then often realize that I am not very mindful at all sometimes. "Name it to tame it" is a saying that I use and think of a lot, so I am hoping that by naming this tendency to be reactive, to be on auto-pilot and not self-aware, I can make some headway in terms of staying more present, centered and grounded so that life's little bumps don't throw me off so much and cause a lot of suffering for me and whoever it is that I'm dealing with.
This sharing doesn't have anything to do with cancer, except for the fact that I have the day off today (due to having had cancer) so I actually have the time to write it, which helps me get some clarity on the issue and perhaps is also helpful to those of you who have the time to read it. I think I will also post this to my other blog--called "Mindful Teacher. Mindful Students."