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The Mother Swallows the Anger of the Child


I was sitting in our big comfy recliner when Goldie (2 1/2) came running to my feet. She threw herself on top of me and started crying. I pulled her onto my lap and listened while I stroked her head, “Oh yes,” I said, “I know, you wanted something and you couldn’t have it, you’re upset, etc.” Kissed her little forehead and eventually, she started smiling and then she bounced away.

I laughed as she toddled off because our interaction was not too dissimilar to many interactions I’ve had with my spiritual guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation. People, including myself, travel all over the world to see him. He’s a very busy man, so when we finally get the chance to talk to him, we all gather around, painfully eager to get a chance to sit with him. And… he usually sits in a big chair! We laugh, we cry, we ask questions, we tell him our problems and our triumphs. The question I’ve heard him ask me the most is, “Are you happy?” He doesn’t really care too much what we do, so long as we are happy.

Guru is another word for teacher, but I’ve heard Sri Sri Ravi Shankar sometimes say that a guru is like a garbage disposal. “Leave all your troubles with me,” he says. Some days I have to remind myself that I am the garbage disposal (the guru) for the little people in my life. If they can’t leave their problems with me, if they can’t bring me their anger, their sorrow, their problems and even their excitement, then who else can they go to? If they can’t walk away from me most days and feel happy, then who else will give them that feeling when they are so small and learning about life? Of course, adults should know that nobody can make us happy but ourselves. But, little people need someone in their life to be there to protect them from the over stimulation of the world. It sounds like a daunting task for a mother (or father) to take on, I know… but it is our job, whether we like it or not.

When my children bring their emotional storms to me, it’s easy to want to run away and hide. In fact, some days I think I would do just that, if I didn’t remind myself that taking on the anger of a child is a privilege. When children bring you their problems, it means they trust you. They feel comfortable in your presence. They know they are safe with you. They know that anger and fear are not their nature. They need you to help soften the blows of life. They’ll throw their frustrations at you with everything they’ve got. And, we have to take it. Not internalize it and take it personally, but to help lift it off their shoulders.

Even when my energy reserves are rock bottom, I somehow find the strength to meet their needs. Ever mother I know does the same thing, again and again. I don’t always do it quite as calmly and coolly as an enlightened guru would do, but I do it nonetheless. When a mother needs to take care of her kids, she can somehow always find a tiny bit of strength left hiding, even when she feels she has none. And, if she doesn’t have the strength, it’s probably because she’s so sick she should be in the hospital!

It’s so important for parents to take care of our emotional and physical needs. We need to have that much more energy so that we can be the garbage disposal of emotions for our children. “Just leave your problems with me…” I hope I give my kids that feeling, because what a relief it would be to have someone to take my daily problems away like that! ‘Mama makes everything better‘, is true. Even if I can’t fix the problem, and even when I’m in the foulest of moods, I hope that my presence is somehow comforting to them. For me, I do a little bit of meditation and yoga that I learned 13 years ago, from the Art of Living Foundation. Without that, I’m not sure how I would handle all the chaos of a household, with no family in a 10,000 mile radius, and still manage to maintain a smile!

Although I serve a huge role in my children’s lives now, my role as the emotional-guru-garbage disposal won’t always be that way. One day they’ll go off to find new teachers. They’ll find new ways to process fear, anger and frustration. They won’t always be crying out for me when they spill their juice or break a toy. In the meantime, I’ll take as much of their garbage as I can handle. I make sure that my cup is full, so that I can empty their garbage when they come dropping it off at my feet! It’s not easy, like I said, but I’ll do it because if I don’t do it, who else will?

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