Tears of frustration ran down the cheeks of my fourteen year old daughter. She’d had a rough week at school. She was emotionally bruised and beaten up. Having to share the use of the front passenger seat with her younger sister from now on was just more than she could bear. It was the culminating symbol of injustice in her life.
In our house, I’ve chosen to simply follow the laws of my state for things like booster seat usage and who can sit in the front passenger seat. Since my girls are two years apart, my elder daughter had had two years of unchallenged privilege to sit up front beside me while her sister waited to turn twelve years old. With her sister turning twelve, a new age of sharing was upon us.
Now. Clearly I knew that her feelings were immature, self-centered, and somewhat spiteful (her words hadn’t reflected that, but I could see the anger and plans of revenge in her eyes). I knew that having the sole privilege for two years had made her complacent and had blinded her to the fact that sitting in the front seat wasn’t her due. I could see all of that and still reflect her feelings. I care about her, so I could reflect her feelings and let her know that I was listening to her.
“You’ve liked having a seat that was ‘yours.’ You’re angry that now you’ll have to share.”
“Yes! I hate having to share!”
“Yep. Sometimes I really hate having to share too.” I gave her a hug and a safe place to feel her feelings until their intensity diminshed.
Was that the end of the story? Of course not.
Reflecting feelings and listening didn’t mean that I allowed her to continue without opposition or correction.
I can say both “You are angry you’re going to have to share” AND “You are not allowed to be mean to your sister because you’re angry.”
I can both give a hug because I care about how she feels AND know that she needs to learn to see the impact of her actions on others.
I can both listen to her AND plan a future conversation with her about selfishness.
I can love her enough to hold her to a higher standard than her base desires would have her pursue.