The Art Of Losing It


‘The slap heard round the world’ got our attention.* And not just because we are celebrity obsessed. On some level, we can relate. In real time, we watched Will Smith’s inner struggle between the survivor who got him through a violent past and the evolved, untroubled person he aspires to be.

Everyone has triggers that show up in ways we come to regret. But if we learn to unify all parts of ourselves, the light and the dark, we can be whole and peaceful.

I too have been on a path to fully integrate. And it’s been messy. My biggest regret is losing my sh!t as a parent. This tendency has diminished over time, but I have plenty of work left to do. I grew up managing the chaos in my home by controlling as much as I could. Good grades, social climbing, and a crisp layer of hair spray gave me some agency over my life, even if it was just on the surface.


What happens when someone like me has children? She tries to control them too. No child on earth enjoys that kind of nitpicky perfectionism, but some can manage well enough under the regime. My two eldest are ‘A’ students, spelling bee champs, Model UN, student government, you get the picture. My third is. Not. Having. It.

He brings the chaos I have guarded against ever since the first parental tirade back in the Seventies. He’s a free-spirited skateboarder with lots of unconventional ideas on how to do life. Sometimes it involves a project with black spray paint perilously close to my white SUV. Or sneaking out the window to meet his friends in the middle of the night. But the days that trigger me most are when he opts out of a regular school day. He pretends to stay asleep, ignores offers of breakfast, and throws the covers over his head.


It happened again this week. I started off calm and understanding, popping by his bedroom for gentle reminders that we only have X more minutes. It’s Monday, I get it.  

As the clock ticked closer to the bell ringing at school and my boy remained horizontal, my mood fell off a cliff.

I marched in and announced that I would no longer tolerate this behavior. My morning appointments would not be cancelled again. His choices would not shape how others perceive me. If he wants to be unreliable, that was on him.

Still nothing.

Then, with the volume turned all the way up, I threatened to end all joy—no sleepovers, no phone, no going out with friends.

Still, he remained motionless. I left the room to collect myself.

An hour had passed. My Zoom started in two minutes. For one last attempt, I entered his room, took a deep breath and sat down, eye to eye.

“What do you need right now?” I asked.

“Sleep,” he said. He’d had an all-nighter with the boys on Saturday night. From the mess in the kitchen, it was clear he’d gotten up the night before as well. The last time this happened, I lectured and cajoled for hours. He refused to move. It was time to try a peaceful solution.

“What if I let you have one more hour?” I asked.


After the extra sleep, he went to school.

Fortunately, I had a practice coaching session to get some clarity around my reaction instead of allowing the guilt to cloud over everything. I hope these insights help you the next time a trigger swoops in.

  1. Notice when it isn’t about you. Instead of asking what was going on with him, I focused only on myself. No kid wants to hear how their troubles are messing up their mom’s routine. Middle school sucks. It will pass. A mental health day (or morning) isn’t a crime against humanity. He doesn’t see the value in showing up bleary-eyed, just to fill out endless worksheets at school. Who can blame him.
  1. Know when to step away. When you realize it isn’t your issue yet you feel yourself getting upset, a moment to reflect and return to your higher functioning brain is needed. Asking yourself, what are you making this mean will help identify painful thoughts. I made his actions mean that he doesn’t respect me. It took a while to find out he was too tired to function.
  1. Turn the accusatory thought around on yourself.** My narrative has been that he brings the chaos. Actually, he was trying to sleep. There is nothing less chaotic. The one losing her mind was me. The one opting out of the reality of the situation was me.

  1. Forgive that part of yourself. When it comes to parenting, the character Lennie in Of Mice and Men comes to mind—remember the guy who kills the little mouse by petting it too hard? After an episode like this, I spend a day or two in a stew of regret, worrying about the damage I caused our relationship and wishing that reactive side of me could stand down. You know what though? That fierce little fighter stayed vigilant to protect me when I needed it. I am grateful for her. But she can relax now, the calm adult me is ready to take the wheel. I can learn to love better.
  1. Imagine yourself at the end of the interaction with both of you going away happy. See it working out exactly how you want it and enjoy that feeling state. Really treasure the good outcome.***
  1. “Children are a revolution,” as Abby Wambach says. Through parenting this boy, I am witnessing what it’s like to live on your own terms. He isn’t desperately searching for anyone’s approval. He is resisting the cultural conditioning to conform, to obey the rules, to sit down and shut up. Is it frustrating? YES. But in my heart of hearts, I couldn’t be prouder.

When we give ourselves a break and stay present, we have the best chance of integrating our wounded self with our healthy self. The more we accept that we are doing the best we can, the happier, more peaceful we can be.



WRITING PROMPT: What happens when your dark side takes over? How can you make peace with that part of you and integrate it into your higher self?

*In case you missed it, during the live telecast of the 2022 Academy Awards, Chris Rock made an insensitive joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. Immediately afterwards, her husband, actor Will Smith, walked across the stage and slapped him.

**The Work by Byron Katie has truly saved me. Check out

*** One scientific study had three groups attempt improvement on shooting free throws in basketball. The control group did nothing, one group visualized getting better and the third group practiced for an hour a day. The two groups who practiced and visualized improved at nearly identical rates. It’s too bad no group both visualized and practiced. They probably would have done the best.

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