Wednesday, April 23, 2008

If you don't think your energy influences others, read this

A couple of weeks ago my three year old daughter had two of the biggest tantrums of her life. Perhaps they would be better categorized as melt-downs. Whatever we call it doesn't really matter; if you are a parent, you know what I am talking about. If you are not a parent, imagine high-pitched screams, clenching of fists, repeated yelling of "NO!", lots and lots of tears, kicking legs and flailing arms. You get the picture?

The point is not really about the tantrums, but rather about the timing of the tantrums--which just so happened to occur the night before and the morning of an important speaking gig I had with a large, well-known company. Not only was it an important speaking gig, but it was my first one with them and so there was the added pressure of making a really good first impression.

My daughter is a very happy, usually good-natured child. She has an occasional melt-down when she is hungry, over-tired, or as I've come to realize more often, has different expectations then what is or isn't going to happen (hey, that sounds like me!). So when she does have a melt-down it tends to throw my husband and I off because they don't happen very often. Sometimes we don't know whether to cry because she's so over the top and bringing her down from the ledge is an emotional and physical endeavor we just haven't been training for or to laugh because she's so over the top and, excuse me, can someone please tell us when the devil traded places with our sweet little girl?

But on these particular days I was stressed out.

Bill was across the country for a business trip. On the day he left for the trip I discovered a rodent of some sort had decided to use one of our kitchen drawers as a nest. The landlord had not gotten back to me and the exterminator had also failed to return my phone call. I was feeling under the weather and trying not to think about the fact that I had a horrible sore throat the day before I was being paid to speak. And on top of all of that, I still hadn't decided what I was going to do for my workshop the next day.

Husband out of town + rodent nesting in kitchen + no foreseeable male coming to the rescue (this is where my feminist streak left my body) + important talk + confusion over what I would be saying for important talk + threat of sore throat impacting important talk + need to get to important talk by 8:15 a.m. in the city + no help to get child out the door in the morning + a failure on my part to communicate to child that we would need to get out door in the morning = mommy being a big ball of stressed energy = child being a little ball of stressed energy.

My big ball of stressed energy was not mine to enjoy alone. For along the way this energy disseminated throughout our house and before I could even see what was happening my daughter was expressing her stress in the only way she knew how--two back-to-back tantrums that nearly made me call and cancel the very important speaking gig.

What did I learn:
  • That it's helpful to have a good, local exterminator's number on hand in case you ever need it. It took me multiple phone calls to find one, but when I did, I immediately felt my stress level go down.
  • How important it is to prepare children for things that are not part of their routine. My daughter is hardly ever woken up in the morning. We head off to day care once she wakes up on her own and leisurely gets ready for the day. Communicating with her the night before about the plan for the morning probably would have changed everything.
  • To trust myself when it comes to preparing for a talk or workshop I am leading. Part of why I was so stressed and unsure what I was going to do until the last minute is because I allowed a comment from another speaker to unnerve me, which I then began to question my focus.
  • That sometimes what seems like a simple physical ailment is really a rather simple emotional or mental ailment. As a dear friend pointed out when I shared with her my concerns around my throat and the talk, her question to me was, "what are you afraid of saying?" Once I determined that I needed to just say want I wanted to say, my sore throat was gone.
  • How I handle my life directly impacts those around me. I may be thinking that not talking about something that is stressing me out protects my children, but that is simply not true. My attitude, focus, perspective and energy is shared with those around me, whether I say the words or not. Making choices that decrease my own stress means that I am making choices to lessen the by-product stress to my loved ones.

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