My Own Cat and Dog Fight

It’s end of the school year, and while my logical brain is organized with the summer plans, another part of me is a bit more hesitant to start summer break. I’m talking about my somatic side, the ever-knowing inner body language that holds a more quiet space for me. I’m a bit worried for summer this year.

I love summer – the farmer’s markets, the sun, the outdoor swimming, the warm evenings, the freezies. Summer dresses and sandals are my perfect outfit of choice, and i love summer evening bike rides with my love.

Now, as a mom to two school-age children, summer also includes regular sibling arguments, sand in their shoes and on my floor, popsicle stains on their faces and t-shirts, epic meltdowns after a day at outdoor camp, and time mostly with just the 4 of us. Day in and day out.

I’m a bit worried about how much the sibling conflicts will get in the way of summer fun. Even as I coach my children to see that the ‘worst day ever’ was just one part bad + other parts okay, we hold the anger and resentment in our bodies for a bit too long. My daughter bounces back much more quickly, and she is ready to move on, though not with an apology at her end. My son needs more time alone to get back to his window of tolerance, and then he sees where he made mistakes so apologies.

After a recent argument about which bike route to take, and my kids using their bikes as weapons to hurt each other, I reflected on how it all came to a head so quickly. And then I saw it: My son’s conflict instinct is to Fight /island /attack and my daughter’s is to Fawn/wave/pursue. In therapist language, my children have outright presented me with their conflict cycles and attachment style. As a therapist, I know how to support couples with this, so when i saw this dynamic in front of my own eyes, it was a light bulb moment.

My son’s sense of justice is so strong that he has a hard time seeing how his reaction can exacerbate conflict. It’s a beautiful thing to witness him wanting to hold the line around rules, order, and safety. And yet, that can mean other people have a hard time being heard by him. My daughter’s constant chatter and social butterfly-ism means she does not allow space for others to be heard. They are my own life size perpetual cat and dog fight.

So, this summer’s plan is still filled with pool trips, strawberry picking, camping, and reading. It will also contain some work on coaching my kids to help them with their relationship. For better or worse.

Wish me luck!

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