Responding to High Stress as a Parent: The Wednesday 1-2-3


Happy Wednesday Reader!

Since last week’s Wednesday 1-2-3 had everything to do with metabolizing and directing our anger, I figured this week’s may as well focus on something else fun and light: stress.

And while I’m going to frame this week around high-stress moments in parenting, the practice I’m going to share is fairly universal to all of us.

So I’ll start with a story.

When our youngest was 3, he entered into an intense version of the lovely experience known as the “terrible twos.”

He would have massive blow-out tantrums, throwing everything out of his room, trying to hit anyone and anything within arm’s reach, and generally create chaos through the house. All while giggling with a mysterious and terrifying (and seemingly unstoppable) maniacal laughter.

And in these moments, I often had no idea what to do.

The thing that worked the day before no longer worked. The approach offered on the parentings forums didn’t do much. No matter how much re-direction we did, he still seemed to find the direction of destruction.

Enter: my own frustration, anger, and exhaustion.

With his nightly blowouts bumping against my own needs for control and calmness (and rationality), I found myself frequently not showing up as the parent I wanted to be. I’m sure all my fellow parents have had experiences like this: when you’re stressed, confused, a bit lost in the sauce, and you respond not with empathy and gentleness toward your kiddo, but by escalating the situation and picking the fight you knew not to pick.

My partner and I were in survival mode every night between 7pm and 9pm.

Luckily – by the grace of everything good and decent in the Universe – this is no longer the season our kiddo is in. His fits are less volatile and have become much shorter as he’s learned tools and resources to calm himself down and get what he needs.

But the reality is: he’s still a preschooler. Which means, the tantrums haven’t stopped.

And when they begin now, I’ve learned to engage a quick practice that helps me stay present and centered in the midst of the chaos.

Here’s how it works:

Practice: Centering

This practice is best done with your eyes open so you can do it anywhere: in a meeting, while driving, in a conversation, or with a fit-throwing kiddo. It can be done standing or seated.

  1. Soften your eyes. Let your eyes soften and bring your attention to your abdomen or the physical center of your body.
  2. Find your Length. Imagine yourself rooting down through your feet into the ground. Then, imagine the top of your head reaching up to the sky. Take a few breaths and feel the full vertical length of your body. Connect with your inherent dignity.
  3. Find your Width. Feel any sensations you might have on your shoulders and sides. Then, gently lean to the left and right, finding your balance where your weight is equally distributed. Take a few breaths with this lengthened and widened posture. Connect with who and what is around you.
  4. Find your Depth. Now feel any sensations you can on the back of your body and then the front of your body. Lean a little forward and then backward, finding your balance. Then, bring your attention back to your abdomen and your physical center while taking a few breaths. Connect with your sense of meaning and purpose in this moment.
  5. Move into Action. From this centered place, and in connection with your dignity, relational context, and sense of meaning and purpose, move with resilience and skillful action.

This practice originates from The Strozzi Institute.

When I remember to center, I respond to my kiddo with more patience, compassion, and gentle care.

And more broadly than that, I find myself being more present with my partner, more kind and forgiving with myself, and more creative in my working life, which has brought me a lot of joy.

Try it out sometime this week and let me know how it goes!

❓ Questions

  1. What are 2-3 tactics you've learned for returning to your sense of meaning and purpose in the midst of conflict?
  2. What societal issues, problems, or narratives lead you to feel "uncentered" when faced with them? What might a practice look like for you that allows you to engage with these more authentically and whole-heartedly?

🛠️ Resources


⏪ If you missed last week's email:

I shared a ritual for metabolizing anger from Cole Arthur Riley.


Hope all is well-enough with you,

Andrew

IG: @andrewglang

Looking for more guidance or support with your inner work?

The Wednesday 1-2-3

Inner work frameworks, practices, and questions – all in a five-minute read. Delivered to your inbox every Wednesday morning before you even wake up. Written and curated by Andrew Lang.

Read more from The Wednesday 1-2-3

Hey Reader, In the conversations I've had with friends the last couple days, there has been one prevailing and overwhelming theme: This week has been emotionally brutal for many of us. I'll just pause and speak from my experience here: since watching the attempted assassination of former President Trump, I've felt myself in a space of sadness, frustration, and – more than anything else – anxiety. It feels like a heaviness and a dread in my chest that just won’t let me go. And given my...

Hey Reader, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I refer to as “the gift percolating up from within me.” Some folks call this a “calling.” Others call it our “daimon” or reference the Japanese concept of “ikigai.” Gay Hendricks calls it our “Zone of Genius.” I think of it as the quality of living that is uniquely ours to nurture and bring forth in the world. And, when I’m present to my life, I notice this quality more and more. I notice when I’m engaging in work that doesn’t feel like work. Or...

Hey Reader, For the past two weeks, I've been sharing the 3-part framework that supports my approach to inner work. You can read the whole framework in one place here. The third and final fundamental is: Solidarity. A note about this framework: in our day-to-day life, there isn’t a “correct” or sequential pattern to any of this. Life is messy. But when we sit down and make time for focused inner work, I’ve noticed it can be helpful to work with these three fundamentals in a sequential, if...