IF ALL YOU HAVE IS A HAMMER...
When I was pregnant I remember reading about various care providers and fearing that if I was attended to by a surgeon, that common birth issues might be solved by surgical intervention. I was hoping for a natural birth, and wondered about the adage "if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." The thought of someone operating on me out of convenience or because that's the most profitable or familiar solution they've been trained for churned up a lot of fear in me. Ultimately, changing providers, practicing yoga and Hypnobirthing supported me in dissolving a lot of that fear. (Big topic for another time!) Interestingly, when I was parenting a little one, this metaphor came back to me in a different way, but this time with me holding the hammer. I began to see my job as a parent as someone who fixes things, who soothes and comfort and makes things better for my child. While largely, these are qualities of an attentive and attuned parent, this desire to fix discomfort has potential drawbacks too. And if all I have is a hammer (or one familiar solution), then every conflict or source of struggle I begin to see as something to fix.
But what if fixing it for them isn't the solution? I started to realize that when I see myself wielding my hammer sometimes I push right through the most important moments. In my haste to comfort and alleviate my child's distress, I miss witnessing them, giving them space to feel what they are feeling, allowing their full expression, reflecting back to them so they can feel heard, understood and deeply know that their experience matters to me. Once I slowed down enough to hold the space for them, their big feelings would shift and slowly we could move toward what to do about it.
Sometimes, to my surprise, being heard WAS the solution.
What a revelation! Those moments continue today, and I now see myself as a container, a vessel, a bowl...
A safe place to hold whatever comes up – the big feelings and the small.
Instead of wielding a hammer, I gently open my arms and hold it all.
Instead of fixing it for them, I comfort them by listening, showing them I'm not afraid of their big feelings, and that I love them no matter what they are going through.
This week, I invite you to notice when you have the impulse to fix it, or solve the perceived problem for your child, your partner, a friend or a co-worker.
What would it be like to simply listen with open curiosity about what that experience is like for them?
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