It was the end of the day, the boys were in bed, and I was just settling down for a breather and Netflix sesh. I was expecting the callouts for water or tissues or last minute questions about the following day’s school activities. But tonight was different. Instead, there, was sniffling, and there was no callout of “Muuum?” to go with it. I popped my head into my ten-year-old’s room to see if he was OK and found him sobbing into his pillow.
My heart broke at his devastation, and my anxious mind went into double time wondering what was so wrong and how did I possibly miss it? I held him until the tears subsided and asked him what had gotten him so upset. He told me how sad he was to be growing up and he missed the person he used to be. I thought I was doing the right thing as I comforted him by painting a verbal picture of the shiny future he has ahead of him and a reminder of the beautiful person he had already become. But the truth was during this conversation I didn’t get it. I was so eager to ‘fix-it’ and take away his sadness with hope and happiness that I didn’t appreciate the space he needed for reflection and saying goodbye.
As a coach, I champion change. As a mum, I encourage resilience and ‘bouncing back’. As a student, I believe in growth and development. As a manager, I promote risk-taking and finding solutions. But take away the roles, when I’m only me I’m sometimes struck by how hard change can be.
Unexpected change as an instance is fickle never being as linear or straightforward as we hope it will be but the process itself is predictive in its course. In its most simplistic direction, we move from our comfy position of predictability into a state of shock and confusion. Often we experience the negative emotions of anger, resistance, depression, fear and resentment at the change that is occurring and the realisation of the inevitability what’s happening. Once we move into a state of acceptance we can finally start emerging from our negative cocoon and stretch our excited and optimistic butterfly wings. Here we can explore our new position and self. We’ve let go. We’ve moved on. We’re back to our comfortable and understood position of self and situation. We again know we’re at and who we are.
But my boy has taught me there’s another phase of change that is as essential as the rest. A phase that is often lost it this busy world where we too quickly jump from one thing to the next as if life was a race to cover as much distance as we can before the timer stops.
It is the stage of reflection where we take a moment to look back to the ‘person we used to be’. This isn’t a state of sadness that occurs during the change cycle. This is different again. In this stage, we recognise we are different than we were before and respect the process that has led to the transformation. During this time of review, our feelings will be unique both to ourselves and the situation we’ve been through. For some, there may be bemusement at the ignorance or arrogance of the person they were before, for others it may be the wonder at the growth that has occurred. For others, there may be a mourning or yearning for the time and person they were before (particularly in instances where the change was forced upon us as occurs through trauma, illness or loss. For my beautiful young man, I finally realised it was the latter that was the source of his tears. Over the past few months, he’s transitioned from boy to tween and was grieving the loss of his uncomplicated childhood days and the lack of control he had over this.
Reflection is the pause before we press play again. – S. McKiernan
Thank you, my boy, for teaching me a lesson I hadn’t learnt before as either coach, mother, student or manager. You taught me to make time to just sit in the moment and feel. To not look forward to the next action or to-do. Not to ‘fix’ or solve. Not to avoid the feeling because I didn’t understand the purpose. But there is a purpose. It’s about honouring our transition, saying goodbye to the past and recognising the part its played in who we’ve become. And it’s this reflection we have a wonderful opportunity to learn. Hindsight allows us to learn about ourselves, what we like, what we don’t. What we struggle with, what blocks us, what motivates us. We can see how we’ve become the person we are today and most importantly – what are we going to do about this going forward. Reflection is not always a comfortable process, but a necessary one because it provides the opportunity to CHANGE.