Nights like tonight remind me that I’m really just a facilitator when it comes to my kids. My 3.5 year old was so hot and so tired, she could barely make a coherent 3 year old sentence. She got caught in a loop of “this blanket isn’t big enough”. No matter what I said, she’d repeat, “this blanket isn’t big enough”, and fuss and cry. I tried the “I’m such a cool parent, I talk gently to my kids” but that seemed to make her more mad. I then tried my “match her energy and decibel level” approach, which is truer to my feisty Colombian self, and seemed to have a better effect.

The way this little technique of mine works is simple, yet coordinated. It’s not tough love. It’s quite the opposite and I assume a position of humility toward my child. Doing this works every muscle in my body, and my heart. It’s exhausting because I have to be ever so present. So vigilant of my words, my reactions, my body language.

There are a couple of things that have to be in place for this to work the way I intend. I need to not be mad, though I allow myself the reality that I’m just frustrated that she’s frustrated. There’s nothing in the world I could say or do to help, so I don’t go looking for a quick fix. I can’t change the way she feels, and it’s her feelings I’m listening to, not the fact that she’s mad about a blanket. I can just meet her and be there. Sometimes I can’t even hold her. I’d get screamed at. So, instead, I’ll repeat what she’s saying and tell her that this blanket (or whatever her loop is about) won’t work; that it’s not what she wants. Then I ask her, what are you going to do? This blanket isn’t good enough. This isn’t what you wanted.

If she’s whiny, I get a little whiny; if she’s talking louder than normal, I’ll talk louder than normal. If all it is is energy that we’re both getting out, nobody should get hurt. Plus, I keep pace with her. When she drops her voice down to a tiny “I love you”, I match that, too.

When I’m lucky, she turns it around and tells me, “it’s okay, mama. I’ve got an idea” and then plots for me how to resolve the annoyance in her life (i.e. the blanket not being big enough). Tonight I had no such luck. I tried telling her that the blanket wouldn’t work but she’d slip back into her wailing and resistance.

The sweet thing, and the thing that keeps me going, is that she does keep her heart open for me by including a quick “I love you” into her venting sessions. Tonight, seconds after screaming that she was going to turn on the light to go find another blanket, she turned to me and said, screaming, “I need you, mama”. I assured her that I loved her so, so much.

She reached over and held on to my hands, tight as ever, and with one swoop of her long, dark eyelashes, dozed off to sleep.

It was as if she couldn’t go to sleep before getting this energy out of her system. This has happened before and I’m prepared for it happening again. It doesn’t bother me to take the long route and just listen to her screaming in my face. Not always. But, for tonight, I felt like I focused on what is most important, above all: my relationship with my kid.