Usually when you get a Brazillian wax, you expect to leave the appointment with tender lady bits and perhaps a bit of sticky wax in your asshole. What you don't normally expect is to leave with exceptional words of parenting wisdom that will forever improve your relationship with your child.
Let me back up and tell you the story.
A few months ago I attended a parenting event about raising confident and motivated children. At this event - I was magnetically drawn to a stunning woman, who I found out was an esthetician. Within two minutes we were talking about labia, so obviously - I liked her right away. We connected on Facebook shortly after the event, and I saw that she was a very active and aware parent. She was always sharing interesting parenting articles that I enjoyed reading and could relate to.
A few weeks later, I was in need of a wax - but I hesitated to contact this new friend.
You see, I always had the idea that the woman who waxes me should be a large German woman with sprouting facial hair. She should say things like, "Zis von't hurt von bit! Vee vill have you bare as a baby's bottom in no time." And I would cringe at the awkward (yet accurate) comparison as she semi-aggressively kneaded and flipped me around on her table like a piece of dough.
So it seemed strange to contact this new friend (who I sensed I might actually hang-out with and become REAL LIFE FRIENDS WITH) and ask her to wax my labe. But, if you know me, you know I actually think awkward situations are hilarious, so...with some hesitation and suppressed giggles, I called and booked an appointment.
A week later, I showed up at this woman's house, and stripped down. I laid on her table and asked "Is this an okay length?" And from there - while she poured, pressed, pulled and ripped, we talked about what most moms talk about: PARENTING.
We quickly swapped stories and shared tidbits about our lives and funny stories about our kids. About ten minutes into the session, I casually mentioned that I was worried about next year when my son had to go to Junior Kindergarden. "Why?" she asked.
I told her how my Mom is our full-time daycare provider, and how my son has never had anyone else look after him other than family members. We take him to playgroups, and he participates at the drop-in classes at our gym - but when we tried nursery school last fall it was a disaster. He was traumatized when we left him.
"Did you use empathy when you left him?" She asked.
"Absolutely!" I replied. "We told him how exciting school would be! We reassured him that we were coming back! We talked to him about all of the exciting things he'd be doing in school!"
"Well..that's not really empathy." She said in a soft tone. "Imagine you were starting a new job, and you were really nervous. Imagine as soon as you walked into the office all of your new co-workers were saying "Oh, hi! Welcome! You're going to love it here! It's great! Really! Don't be scared!" How would that make you feel? Probably pretty overwhelmed. But imagine someone pulled you aside and said, "Hey...I remember on my first day at the office, I was really nervous too. I almost didn't want to come to work. I felt sick to my stomach I was so scared. I didn't know anyone, and I was unsure of my job and what I was supposed to do..."
And as soon as she said it like that, it all made sense. She was 100% right.
Despite the fact that I'm a very empathetic person, and my son at a young age already shows many signs of empathy, I wasn't using an empathetic approach when talking to him about some of the big things that were really scary to him. Instead, I was trying to re-assure and "convince" him that something he was legitimately fearful of wouldn't be scary. In essence: I wasn't hearing him and I wasn't validating his feelings.
This was a true light-bulb moment for me.
Once the last strip of wax was ripped off, I hugged and thanked my new friend (and new favourite esthetician / parenting advice guru) and ran home to share this insight with my co-parents (my husband and my mother).
Ever since that day, we've been using the "empathetic" approach in many situations - and let me tell you: it works wonders. There have been numerous times my son is on the verge of tears, and we simply get down to his level, look him in the eye and connect with him. We share stories of our experiences to let him know that he's not alone and that we've felt those big feelings too. He feels heard. He feels understood, and he feels more confident.
The next time we dropped him off at the gym for his two hours of playtime/instruction time, he was a different kid. He puffed his chest out with a mixture of fear and confidence - and jumped right in with the other kids. We still have a long way to go before full-day JK next year, but I have no doubt that with the use of empathy and consistently going to his weekly classes - he'll be more than ready.
Thank you for the wise words, new friend. This also reminds me. I need to book another waxing session: for hair removal AND more parenting tips!