One evening, I was getting ready to bring my son to his best friend’s house. They are six and seven years old. My son’s friend, Larry, wanted to have his other best friend, Evan, over at the same time. We found out that Evan had the chicken pox, so we called Larry’s parents and said we didn’t think we wanted our son exposed. The parents agreed that this was reasonable, and they called Evan’s family to cancel that plan.
But Larry, my son’s very best friend, was enraged! He had wanted Evan to come to his birthday party the weekend before, and he hadn’t been able to come. He’d been very disappointed. This was the last straw–he had made plans to spend the evening with both of his best friends, and now we had spoiled the whole thing. His parents told me that he demanded to speak to me over the phone. They tried to “cool him down,” but he would have none of it.
He called me and spent a long time and a great amount of energy telling me how angry he was and how bad I was for ruining his evening. He went on and on. At one point, his father interrupted him, got on the phone, and tried to end the conversation. I told the father that Larry wasn’t finished, and that I wanted to finish hearing how he felt. So he put Larry back on the phone, and Larry continued being heated and indignant about the injustice I had caused.
After awhile longer, he seemed to become less coherent in his thoughts, so I asked him if he wanted to stop now, and continue when I got there with my son. He said OK. When I got there, he was entirely finished, and didn’t want to go back into feeling upset. His parents said they’d never seen anything like it!
When he gets upset, he usually gets physical and harsh, but after I listened to him all the way through, he got off the phone and he felt pleased, peaceful, and satisfied. He was glad to see me. Because I listen to my son cry and work through heavy feelings, it didn’t seem like much to me. But this boy rarely has an opportunity to express his feelings all the way to completion, so it seems like he was able to use my listening to get a significant piece of work done on his indignation that night.
- A Parenting by Connection Dad