This week, my best friend from childhood (and her daughter) came to spend a few days with us. Each summer when we get together, I get excited and look forward to our time spent together, and this week was no exce…ption. The first night, my friend was putting her daughter to bed, and I was putting Faith to bed. I tried to rush through our bedtime routine, but she sensed it and was resisting me leaving the room. At that point, I got frustrated and reminded her in an exasperated tone that my friend was here visiting and I just wanted to spend some time with her and certainly she can understand such a thing! She grew very sad and quiet and told me that she really wanted to spend some special time with me, but she understood and I should go downstairs to be with my friend. So I bolted out of the room, but as soon as I left, I began to feel bad about how I had handled the situation. My daughter is a very sensitive and wise person and would have deeply understood what I needed that night. And the most ironic thing of all is that my friend fell asleep putting her daughter to bed and so we never ended up getting to spend time together anyway.
The next night, I knew I needed to rectify this situation. So at bedtime, I told Faith I needed to talk to her. I told her that I had felt badly about how frustrated I had gotten the night before and that I was not happy with how I had handled things with her. I reminded her that she is a very wise little girl and if I had gently explained to her that I wanted to spend some time with my friend who I do not get to see that often and how much that makes me happy and energized, I know she would have understood and supported me. But because of how frustrated I was and how quickly I wanted to get out of the bedroom the night before, my actions only resulted in making her feel shameful and guilty about wanting more time with me. She completely understood. Faith is such a caring and wise little girl that I knew she would understand. She loves to spend time with her best friend and I do everything in my power to allow that to happen as often as I can. She told me she felt sad for me that my best friend lives so far away and that I do not get to see her that often. She told me I did not have to spend that much time in her room that night and that she would be fine and I should go downstairs and spend this special time with my friend.
My friend and I ended up only watching half of a movie before we both realized we were too tired to finish it, but it was nice just to be able to relax together and not sit with the weight about how I had treated my daughter (as I had the night before). This situation reminded me yet again how important effective communication is. When we are not tuned in and aware of and addressing the real issue, it tends to get lost under a bunch of other “clutter” like power struggles, guilt-trips and such. Good, clear, effective communication addresses the real issue and helps both people to move beyond whatever the issue is.