Once, when I was stretched out on a chiropractor’s bed, with my head cradled in his hands, tensely waiting for him to snap my neck, thereby severing my head (I imagined what the room would look like tumbling over and over as my head rolled away across the floor), when he said to me, “You have trust issues, don’t you?”
Well not completely. I totally trust my DH. He’s saved my life: literally a few times—mostly from drowning—and figuratively every day. And beyond him, there are a few people I trust, but within certain parameters.
- Don’t criticize. We all—ALL—make mistakes. We all fall short. We all say something sometimes that we regret. Forgive, overlook the inconsequential errors, and give each other unconditional love anyway. (I’m not saying parents don’t have to address when wrong choices are made, but they can be handled in a non-critical way.)
- Notice the good things. Everyone does good. Last Sunday I substituted in a class of 3 & 4 year olds. At the end of two hours of chasing errant children down halls, taking them on multiple trips to the bathroom, and having a nose wiped all over my blouse and then my cardigan sleeve (gross), I realized I’m getting old. But the children also walked quietly in a line (some of the time), (mostly) washed their hands in the bathroom, and role played stories well. And I would say, “good job” with a smile.
- Listen to each other. I remember well when I was about eleven, standing at my mom’s elbow while she stirred gravy for supper and I told her about a boy at school. In that moment of one-on-one, I felt special—not just one of nine.
- Touch your children with affection. I watched a lady in church Sunday who managed to hug or clasp a distant shoulder of all her children constantly. They would snuggle in and lay their heads on her lap or whisper to her. These were not three year olds either. The oldest daughter is a beautiful, popular girl in her senior year of high school. That woman’s children feel secure with her. While we don’t allow inappropriate touches in our homes, we need to not refrain from physical contact either. I had to teach myself to hold my children. I would say to myself, “Go ahead, put your arm around them. Now leave it there.” Now my son helps. He gives me big bear hugs and after a moment when I go to step back, he says, “I’m not done hugging you.”
- Be playful. Laugh at silly moments and witty comments (but not at clumsiness—for that, give a hug of reassurance). Short-sheet your son’s bed. Have your little daughter do your make-up or hair. Jump out and scare someone when they walk into a room. Eat lunch some place unusual—the front porch or under the table. When we are playful and silly, children feel like they can be themselves without censor.
- Remember people are more important than things. My grandmother gave me a matched set of lead crystal bud vases. One day my son climbed on the kitchen counter and, while getting something from the cupboard, knocked one of them down. It smashed into pieces. When I saw it I felt the anger rise, because the vase represented my grandma to me. And then I saw his face. I scooped him up and said it was okay, and that I knew he didn’t mean to knock it down. I remember that moment as the one where I chose my child. The vase really didn’t matter. It wasn’t my grandma, and now I keep her picture close to remember her with.
- Say “I love you.” Say it with sincerity and while looking in their eyes. If this doesn’t come easy, start anyway and grow from there. It’s one of those essential things we have to risk. My DH taught me by example so that by the time we had children I could tell them.
Creating a safe emotional place for your family gives them a solid foundation for a strong emotional IQ. It gives them the armor they need to face the world and when they return after a day of slaying dragons, they can feel they have returned to a safe place.
For me, that is also a place without chiropractors.