How Our Shame Becomes Their Shame

Picture this: a long awaited getaway weekend with your best girlfriend, a text from your husband that he's just started puking and our 17 month old is yelling at him while he pukes, and then the phone call. This phone call involved a very sick husband who was in a complete stalemate with our five year old, which resulted in one in tears and the other in grimacing exasperation...though these descriptions could probably apply to either or both at this point. And you ask...what was this crisis all about? One word...shame. 

I know that shame is now a hot button topic and that the pendulum has swung from a world where terribly shaming behavior was the norm to one where even a an earnest comment or honest reaction can be categorized as shaming (which by the way when pointed out as such ironically serves to shame the person who dared to make such an utterance, but I digress). Despite the buzz about shame, and our intellectual dissection of it, there are moments when you suddenly and viscerally see it, feel it and know it and absolutely understand why we are tackling this issue and sense the power it can have. 

Back to the phone husband (who had just completed round 2 of puking violently) had asked my son what he was up to in the living room. My son had refused to tell him. My husband dragged himself out of bed to evaluate the damage only to find nothing broken. My son still refused to talk. Eventually this standoff deteriorated into both sides digging in, and needless say, mom got called in as mediator. My son repeatedly said he didn't want to tell me because he was scared. I tried my best to be patient (which wasn't easy considering the wine and hilarious company that was waiting for me), and it struck me that what I was hearing in his voice was shame.

Urgh. My heart hurt. I just took a deep breath and told him that no matter what he had done, I would always love him, so it was ok to tell me. And piece by piece, the story came out, which I will not share because it's not mine to share. But I must say it was so much less shocking than I was expecting after the excruciating exercise of trying to wrestle it from him. 

It made me realize 2 things: 1) things are so much bigger when you're 5 (or 2 or 9 or 16 for that matter), and we can't be dismissive of the bigness of things to these little people and 2) we learn shame so young and from so many different people and places in our life. are wondering why I am sharing this story. I am sharing this story because I have read about shame resilience. I have discussed shame resilience. I have broken down the various elements of shame resilience and tried to apply them in my life. I read Brene Brown's Daring Greatly (which every human should read for sure), but suddenly it wasn't my shame I was worried about. Hearing the voice of my magic little person carry the weight of shame made me stop in my tracks. It knocked me upside the head, spun me around and then shook me. Then it looked me right in the eye and told me that this is what it was really all about. 

We all experience shame. It's part of the human condition. But it came clear that my work around shame resilience wasn't just about me. It's about those amazing little beings that will someday walk into the world without me wiping their nose and asking if they remembered to go potty. It's about them seeing shame resilience and not knowing any different. And, hopefully, it's about them living the beautiful and soulful lives that are possible when you remove the fog of shame. 

So, you tell me...have you ever had a moment as a mom where you saw shame creep into your little one's consciousness? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.  

Thank you so much for letting me be part of your journey. If you're wondering who I am, my name is Maggie. I am a working mom of two boys, who had my one vacation since July 2013 abruptly interrupted with a stunningly hilarious phone call. C'est la vie! 

Much love!