I do not like confrontation.
If I had the choice between 1) never having things my way or 2) having to fight for anything I wanted for the rest of my life, my natural choice is number one.
The thought of conflict makes my stomach twist into knots….
This area is a big struggle for me, especially when it comes to my family. As I look back over the past five years, many negative moments have occurred because of this particular weakness. My parents are constantly pushing me to talk about things, to tell them what I prefer.
Sometimes it’s as simple as “Will you please pick a dessert?” or as complicated as “Please tell us how you’re really feeling about this issue.”
My parents have sat staring at me for up to 15 minutes, waiting for me to get the courage to talk. My usual method of retreat is no match for their patience.
Most of the time, I am not happy with their persistence–at the time–but I know, deep down, that they love me tremendously and that they really want us to have a strong relationship.
I grew up mostly silent because I was a major bottler of all my emotions. No one pushed me to talk if I didn’t want to talk. And now, looking back, I almost wished someone had pushed me a little harder. There were many times that I really did want to talk, but couldn’t work up the gumption to say anything. The walls around my heart were so tall, so thick, that it became hard to climb them.
The thing I love the most about my parents is that they are trying.
They don’t come with a bulldozer threatening to tear the walls down.
They don’t have a bullhorn, yelling things like “You better start talking!” or “Don’t you know how hard this is for me?”
The only sound I ever hear is knocking and then, “Audra, we’re here for you–if you’d only open the door we can work this out together.”
And the times I haven’t opened the door?
This is what I hear: “Okay. We’ll be standing right here whenever you’re ready to talk, but know that we aren’t going anywhere.”
Maybe you never had this kind of exchange growing up. I don’t think it’s a far stretch for me to say that most of us didn’t have parents around who could–or even wanted–to take the time to connect at a heart level.
But it’s so important.
Because you know who my parents are talking to most of the time? The person who lives behind that wall?
A scared little girl who locked herself in there for her own protection.
Without the persistence of my parents, that fear would keep me from having rich, meaningful relationships. And I would be just as lonely today as I was growing up.
If you, as a parent, can’t find a way to connect with your child, someone else will. Or, even worse. your child will build walls around their hearts.
Walls are a lot harder to tear down than to build.