I am thrilled that my youngest son has a teacher that specifically teaches classes in mindfulness. It is probably not practiced enough, but I am happy to know that it does exist. I wish I had more knowledge of exactly what is being taught, but for now I am going by what my four-year old tells me.
He has shown me different breaths he has learned to calm his body. His favorite is called the “Volcano Breath”. When I was doing Yoga at home the other day he heard the instructor say, “Lion’s Breath” and he told me he learned that breath in school. He said I was doing it wrong and showed me how to do it correctly, letting out a big lion roar. I was also surprised when he told me he had a “Lizard Brain”. He could not put into words what it meant, but when I told him how his “lizard brain” keeps him safe, he understood. He also told me his teacher had a lizard puppet.
So last night after two very long weeks of winter break, lots of traveling, and probably not enough sleep, I decided my youngest should take a bath before bed to be ready for school the next day. He was already being pretty bossy, so I should have known this might not go well. When it came time to wash hair he insisted on doing it himself. When he didn’t get his hair quite wet enough, I took it upon myself to pour a cup of water over his head when he wasn’t expecting it.
His “lizard brain” went into full effect! His first response is to fight! So he takes his hands and give me three big splashes, soaking my clothes. I was not happy, but I also did not react. I could feel myself going into “lizard brain” mode too, but after years of practice, I am finally able to recognize it and move on. His next response is to tell me he doesn’t love me. He knows exactly what to say to stab my heart and get revenge. At this point the option of washing his hair was over unless I was going to go into full on battle with him. He was mad. I was very frustrated. We both needed to calm down. I helped him out of the tub, but I was in no mood to help him with anything else.
He went downstairs and sat in his rocking chair wrapped up in blankets. I sat on my bed and took some deep breaths. Once I regained some composure and compassion, yet still damp from being splashed, I went into the fridge and brought him a slice of cake for a bedtime snack. He ate half the cake, too tired to be completely happy about it. I helped him get his pajamas on, he brushed his teeth and hopped straight into bed. I asked if I could snuggle with him and he said, “No, I hate you.” I said, “Maybe tomorrow.” I told him, just like I told my older kids when they were little, “I love you always and forever and no matter what.” He closed his eyes and went to sleep.
When I came into the kitchen this morning he was eating his cereal. I asked if I could sit down beside him. After thinking about it for a moment he said, “Yes.” I asked him if he still loved me today and he said, “Yes, I do.” We talked about what happened last night. I know he felt bad for splashing me and I told him that it wasn’t really him that splashed me, it was his “lizard brain.” Sometimes our emotions completely take over and our lizard gets out of his cage. Even though it is not a life or death situation, sometimes our brain does not take that into consideration and just goes right to fight or flight. Some kids are super sensitive and go here more easily than others.
Everyone has a “lizard brain”, we just need to learn to recognize it. I told my son we need to try to keep our lizard in its cage when we don’t really need it. A little water over our head is not the same as having to survive if we are drowning. If it comes out of the cage by mistake, we can practice our volcano breaths or our lion breaths to put it back where it belongs. We can snuggle up in our blanket and rock. We can get a good night’s sleep, or do whatever else helps calm our brain and body.
This takes years of practice. Many adults still don’t even recognize their lizard brain and why their lizard charged out of its cage in a particular moment. You are way ahead of the game learning this at age four. We will keep practicing. The more we practice the more we understand our emotions and are able to have a little more control over them. You did all the right things to get yourself back on track. Sometimes we just need to sleep on it too. Everything looks better in the morning!
~DO BETTER & Shine