I visited with a friend and her I-can’t-believe-she’s-almost-six-years-old daughter, Kayla, yesterday. Kayla is at that stage where her time and experiences outside the family unit are becoming greater than her time with her parents. And so, like every curious kid at that juncture, she is starting to compare her situation and family with others. And her conclusion is that her mommy and daddy are mean to her sometimes. Just like every other six year old on the planet.
But perhaps Kayla is struggling with it a little more than some. Not because her parents are meaner (in fact, they are both amazing at being the parent that their daughter needs), but because Kayla is an only child.
As an only child myself, I never would have realized this connection on my own, but my friend, who has two siblings herself, explored this with me yesterday.
“For Kayla, there are two sets of rules in the house: what mommy and daddy are allowed to do (whatever they want from a kid’s view!) and what Kayla is allowed to do. When I was growing up, there were also two sets of rules: what my parents could do and what the kids could do.”
I immediately understood what she was saying, “So you didn’t take it personally when you had boundaries or were told ‘no.’ It wasn’t because it was you, it was because you fell into the category of ‘kid.’ Whereas for your daughter, even though her limits are because of her age, it’s easy for her to assume they are because she is ‘Kayla.'”
I felt a mental gear click into place.
It’s no wonder in relationships that we all too often take our partner’s words and actions personally. After all, in most cases, we are the only one that falls into the category of “spouse.” So we assume that the rejection or the betrayal or the neglect is because of us, who we are at our core, when it’s often because of the role we play and the position we occupy.
So next time you find yourself upset at somebody’s actions that you perceive as being directed, take a moment to think about little Kayla.
Is it happening because of who you are or is it happening because of the category you occupy?