WHEN YOU BRING A CATHEDRAL


There's a saying in improv:

'Bring a brick, not a cathedral.'

The idea is that when we bring a fully formed, complete idea (a cathedral) that we are utterly attached to, we block collaboration and connection with others. When we are able to slow down, listen and be receptive to other by contributing something small (a brick), then piece it together as an ensemble, we can create something that is much greater than the idea from one person alone.

I love this metaphor for how we sometimes approach parenting:

we hold a complete idea of how things "should" go, then pressure or coerce our kids to go along with it.

Cathedrals can show up anywhere...

Getting ready in the morning

Getting to the bus/school on time

Bedtime routine

Errands

Vacations

Going somewhere/leaving somewhere

Expecting certain behavior (social, polite, quiet, obedient, engaged, responsive, appreciative, etc)

So we get this brilliant idea - based on experiences, preferences, convenience or simply because it's the only way we've envisioned it. Yes, this plan makes sense. All kinds of other good things will happen as a result of things going according to my plan.

And we are attached.

So maybe we approach the situation with an edge of demand.

Or maybe we ask, but we don't really care what the answer is, because there's only one right answer. The trap of attachment is that it hinders us from curiosity, presence and listening to what the other person has to say.

This attachment to the cathedral can create a ripe environment for disconnection. The more they resist, the more we dig our in our heels. This is where things can shift toward coercion: using shame, guilt, a sense of duty, rewards/punishments to pressure them into compliance. Here's where a power struggle gets it's fuel.

Ranch, lighthouse, cabin or yurt?

How would it feel if rather than being completely attached to how you'd like something to go, each person were to contribute something small (a brick) to create something better than what any one person could have conceived of alone? When collaborating, we don't know what we will create. We can't predict the outcome, and as parents sensing the unknown can feel scary, disorienting, and stressful.

I'm not implying that you throw logic, wisdom and health away here. True collaboration is born of inviting everyone's ideas to the table. You don't have to agree with all of them, but you want to be open, curious and willing to consider them as valuable contributions.

I'm also not implying that you abandon what you want. The idea is to hold your needs while also entertaining the idea that there are infinite strategies to meet any need.

If your child needs to be in bed by 8 for a full night of sleep, and they want to keep playing, all is not lost. When your intention is to connect, rather than to get your way the possibilities become endless. Your curiosity and willingness to listen helps them to feel heard, and when they feel fully heard and are given the chance to solve the issue you may be surprised by the bricks they are willing to contribute. Once we are open and both sides are adding to building a solution, we are only limited by our imagination.

The true task is to hold your needs and your child's needs equally - regardless of their age.

Express what you need. If the brick they offer is block (which can look like anything from yelling "no" to no response at all), slow down. Get curious. This is the time to really listen to them through observation and imagining what might they be saying yes to.

Hold both of your needs equally and commit to finding a solution together that meets both of your needs. And notice that there are infinite ways to make that happen, particularly if you're not attached to your cathedral.

You may end up building a ranch, a lighthouse, a cabin or a yurt. Or building something that no one has ever conceived of before, but you created it with your child, one brick at a time.

Sometimes it's downright magical.

Have a cathedral that you're hung up on? Has it turned into a power struggle that is interfering with connection? Hop on over to schedule a free, no obligation consult + let's work on it together. xx

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