By Jennie Lee
My 16–year old son just tackled me onto the couch. I was mid-email and in no mood to play. I struggled to get free, but he held me down until I caved in to laughter. I can’t blame him for these antics. He learned them from me a long time ago.
I am a lucky parent actually, to be tackled by their teenager. Even luckier since he talks to me too, hugs me, hangs out with me and trusts me. How is this possible? I credit the Love Jail.
Don’t think for a minute that I have one of those easy kids, the ones that rarely cry when they are babies, are content wherever you place them, even-tempered and jovial. No, mine never napped, has always been explosive, and perfected his “NO” even before he knew how to say it. When he was small, I studied the parenting books and leaned not to indulge his tantrums, just ignore the behavior rather than give it attention. But I also believed in raising my son to speak his mind and know his feelings, so I couldn’t very well shy away when he let them all hang loose. As a single mom, it was overwhelming at times to stay present while he screamed and thrashed; inconsolable, irrational and escalating.
One snowy night we were out having a snowball fight. He was wet and tired and had been pummeled one too many times. He got angry and hurled a ball of ice at my head with just a bit too much intent. He missed, but it came close enough to make me really angry and I marched him home into the temporary custody of a makeshift jail that I constructed out of two chairs. I told him to stay there and think about his bad behavior. He was given crackers and water for dinner that night. Love has to be tough sometimes and I was starting to worry that if he grew up indulging the emotional outbursts I was seeing in his childhood that one day I would be getting a call from a real jail cell.
As time went on, so did the tantrums and as he got bigger they were less and less pretty. One day, as he was screaming and stomping about, a flash of motherly intuition whispered, “Put him in a ‘Love Jail’ and don’t let him out.”
So I grabbed the ranting, flailing child and held him tightly to my heart. He kept crying “Let me go!” but I called upon my deep yoga breathing and told him, “Nope, you are in the Love Jail. I am not letting you go until you calm down. I love you too much.”
The wrestling match continued for several more minutes and I was exhausted by the end, but amazingly, it worked! He finally quieted and snuggled into my arms, relaxed. He felt safe, held in the arms of love.
That was over 10 years ago and I have had to lock him up a few more times since then. Now, he is a foot taller than me and can definitely take me down on a tackle to the couch, but if the need arose I would use my super human mom strength and lock him up in the Love Jail again. Fortunately, these days my love is expressed more through heart to heart talks about drugs and sex and how to be a good, kind person in the world. I am grateful every day for what we share; the confidence, the laughter, and even the occasional blindsiding in the living room.
We laugh about the incarcerations of his youth and I trust that there will be no phone calls from real prison cells. But if there is, I will be there, with loving arms, to bail him out and take him home to my Love Jail again. Love changes everything, and it is always the answer.
Jennie Lee is the author of Breathing Love: Meditation in Action, a spiritual guide to living love as an embodied meditation practice and True Yoga: Practicing with the Yoga Sutras for Happiness and Spiritual Fulfillment. A certified yoga therapist, she has coached people in the healing tradition of classical yoga meditation for over two decades. When not writing or coaching she loves to surf and hike with her husband near their home in Hawaii. Jennie can be found online at www.jennieleeyogatherapy.com.
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