Google+ Authentic Parenting: Feelings Are Like A Compass

Friday, January 13, 2012

Feelings Are Like A Compass

Feelings are like a compass, a tool for inner guidance. With practice we can learn to acknowledge them and learn from them, no matter how fleeting they may be. Processing our feelings, listening to them and reflecting, allows us to move through and beyond them, into restoring peace between mind and body. -from my journal

Recently, on a bike ride, something upset my five year old. It was bad enough that he said he would never ride his bike ever again, except, riding a bike is something he loves, so much so, he figured out how to pedal a bike, without training wheels, before his fourth birthday.

Frustrated, tears surpressed, he climbed off his bike, then he got really upset and started yelling: “I hate you. I hate this bike, Put it back in the car. I hate that you made me come on this stupid bike ride.”

I tried to project calmness and speak in a nice way: “I can see you are very upset.”
On the inside though, I felt some anger and frustration surfacing. My child was yelling, loudly. Yelling that he hates me and his bicycle! People were stopping and looking too. (As expats, speaking english as opposed to the local language -Italian-and being a large(ish) family we inadvertently attract a bit of attention.)

Before addressing the yells, I took a huge breath and started to acknowledge my own feelings. My inner monologue went a bit like this: I am sooo frustrated right now. My stomach feels hot and I want to throw something, far far away. This is so annoying. Breathe. Breathe again! Then I re-focused back as he continued:
“I’m going to break this bicycle and stuff all the pieces into a trash bag and put these stupid new boots in there with it. “ “I want to spit on you” he went on. “and spit on these boots.”

He started to froth his mouth so I stepped out of the way; the spit landed on the ground. My inner voice again: Are you kidding me! You have a top of the line bike, brand new boots and no clue how much this stuff costs and you just want to throw it away and spit on me– GAAH this makes me livid!

I didn't react, instead I stood there and asked myself why I was feeling what I was feeling. Listening to his yelling made me realize I was feeling guilty and tired because where we live, bike riding is an ordeal. Loading the car with everyone and all the bike stuff and driving down the mountain, just to get to a bike path with three kids and two dogs is exhausting – and now the ride was not even going well.

“PUT MY BIKE IN THE CAR” he yelled.

I tried to listen to my feelings again. I knew I had to focus, not yell back, it would not help, at all, although part of me really, and I mean really wanted to.
“Do you want to talk about what is upsetting you or do you need time?” I replied.

“I want to be alone with these stupid boots. Go away.” He said.

“Alright. I will sit right over there.” I pointed to a wall where I could sit but still be close by. “I will listen to you whenever you need me.” As I started walking I realized, the problem might be the new boots but I didn't say anything.

Within a minute I heard “I need you now.” As he said it, big tears were streaming down his soft face. “The boots hurt my feet. But I want to like them because they are like Papa’s.” he explained. “So I am so mad right now.” he continued.

We hugged, I kept listening, he asked for the bike to be put away so we packed it back into the car. I explained that his siblings were waiting to get into the path and although he wasn’t all smiles yet, we eventually started walking. As we walked, more hurtful words about the boots and the bicycle came up: it was emotional throw up* and there was a lot of it. So I listened, and held his hand when he wanted it. I reflected back some of the things he was saying and he started to relax.

He asked for a piggy back ride and that helped him move on from hurt back into happy. Mid laughter he told me he was sorry about trying to spit on me "that would have been so gross, sorry." and I smiled. "Yes, it would have been gross." My inner voice at the end there: Phew, that was not easy!

Peace & Be Well,

Do you use your feelings to guide you? Have you been able to navigate yourself out of a trap of reaction?

*Thank you to Cathy Cassani Adams for such a great way to describe this outpour of feelings.



  1. Love it!Thank You. Really helped me this morning! Hugs, hugs and hugs...

  2. holy cow. you are amazing. somehow i will channel your calm and listen to my feelings before responding in a less than desirable way. thank you for this post.

  3. holy cow. you are amazing. somehow i will channel your calm and learn to listen closely to my feelings and then react in a positive way when things are not unfolding quite so positively. :) thank you for this post.

  4. wow that would be so hard for me, near impossible! especially the spitting and once it gets to that i go off - not because of the fact that it is gross, which it totally is, but the 'disrespect' part about spitting on someone, especially in my culture. but even generally i find it rare that i can keep my cool and not yell or argue back. i have a long way to go

  5. Thank you all for reading and your lovely comments!

  6. I needed to have someone put this into words for me; so all my ugly words don't need to come out! Thank you!

  7. amazing, so inspiring to read your inner struggle and how essentially not outwardly reacting gave you and your son time to move father into the process. I feel the need to react while I'm still struggling to process my thoughts and feelings, but as long as everyone is safe (other than potential grossness, lol) there usually isn't a need for a swift reaction. Looking forward to reading this again after thinking on it some.


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