The Opening Path

313 West Liberty Street, Suite #230
Lancaster, PA 17603


A Hug


It had been a long day at work, nonstop, no lunch break and phone calls interrupting other phone calls. Her husband was traveling, and she was single parenting it tonight and she arrived home, frazzled. As she stepped through the front door, the sounds of the TV drifted in from the den and there were lights on throughout the house. Two backpacks sat slumped sideways inside the door, and one coat had made it to the chair while the other lay next to the chair, on the floor. Zoe sighed the working parent sigh and followed the sound of the TV into the brightly lit family room.

“Mo-om, Susie stole the remote and hid it”.

“Mom! Nellie was watching Sponge Bob and I am sick of Sponge Bob, I just wanted to watch Raven. You know she likes Raven, too. ”

“I’m hungry” Nellie piped in because she really didn’t care about tv.

“Mom, I need posterboard tonight, I have a project due tomorrow.” There was worry in Susie’s voice.

“Mo-om,” Nellie interrupted “you promised to help me make my thanksgiving turkey…you have to Mom.. When is Daddy coming home? Do we have cotton balls, we have cotton balls don’t we Mommy? I’m really hungry, can we have McDonald’s?”

“No, Mom I’m sick of McDonald’s.” Susie complained “Why can’t we have a sit down dinner, let’s go to Friendly’s. We can buy the posterboard at the Dollar store next door, in case you forgot?” This was said with the pointed guilt producing ability of a ten year old.

“Mommy! Friendly’s takes too long. I’m hungry now”. Susie stubbornly insisted.

Under the weight of all these complaints, Zoe sank onto the sofa and the two girls piled on top of her, the youngest twining her arms around her mother’s face, planting a warm wet kiss while her oldest daughter grabbed her free hand and sat as close as she could.

Zoe smiled the first smile since lunch, enjoying this one moment of quiet, thinking to herself “this does not solve the problem of dinner,” but when she heard this deep sigh come from her younger daughter, Zoe felt this tremendous peace and she found her voice heavy and sweet saying “How’s my two girls?” At the same time, she reached for the phone to order pizza.

This tired,stressed mom, calmed a potentially explosive situation by reacting with patience, soft touch and some quick assessment. She managed the emotional upset with a calm warm hug and problem solved (thinking aspect) with the call for pizza. Zoe accurately read into her daughters’ whining, seeing the needs and wants presented: food, a adult homework help- vs wants: McDonalds vs Friendly’s.

Most importantly, she does not lose sight of her own needs. After an enormously busy day, she was facing a busy night with needy hungry daughters who wanted help with homework and no Dad to split the chores with. She addresses their needs positively (food) and her own (conserving energy) and orders pizza and she does it with warmth, a hug, a squeeze and a kind word.

Warmth creates the essential bond between parent and child. Warmth can move children from upset to stability. Zoe’s daughters have a sense of trust that their mother understands what they need and will take care of it. That is trust. They also know they will not always get what they want and they trust their Mom will sort that out as well. They trust she will make it all right. In this case it’s pretty easy. Pizza, a trip to the store and a night of projects to complete. Easy peasey to most parents. Stressful, but doable.

Children are not born trusting. They learn it when parents know how to keep the balance and when parents can listen, understanding behind whining, plaintive requests:

  • what their children are feeling (angry, tired, worried, scared, lonely, irritable)
  • what they are need in this moment (or wanting-knowing that difference)
  • and then make reasonable actions to meet those needs –without (if possible) sacrificing their own needs-
  • or teach children ways to delay those wants, if necessary (emotional moderation skills)

And –here’s the difficult part--do it with kindness, humor and caring.

That’s how trust is created. That’s why Zoe’s girls trust her. They expect she will feed them and help them with whatever life is demanding of them, and on this particular night it is a cotton ball thanksgiving turkey and a poster.

To create warmth:

  • Name the feeling (to yourself and understand the source)
  • Communicate or VALIDATE the feeling
  • Sort out: NEED OR WANT(hunger is a need, help with homework is a need, McDonald’s for dinner is a want)
  • Create a Plan for resolving
  • End with kind words

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Deutsch: Pluto und Proserpina(Persephone)-Glocken Fontäne Rondell - Sanssouci, 2009.05.03