My children were having one of those end-of-the-summer, knock-out, drag-down fights. Screaming, and scratching, Barbies and ipods flying through the air. Concerned about a crime scene, I stepped out of my lazy Summer Sunday afternoon vibe and into the middle of their hormonally-challenged ruckus. Within minutes, my entire physiology changed from chill to charged. I could feel myself tensing up as they simultaneously made their case. It became a screaming match, and yes, I got into it too, yelling, issuing time outs, threatening phone privileges. Well, despite my efforts, the train with no brakes continued to careen through my house. It occurred to me that if a high-ranking U.S. Diplomat, trained and paid to mediate entrenched warring parties, were in house, she would have sighed, shook her head, and resigned after this episode of Playroom Crazies.

The anguish of this sibling conflict was made considerably worse when my self-critical Monkey jumped in, “How is it that you’re raising people who fight and bicker so relentlessly with each other?” Monkey chides with a sneer, “How come you can’t even simmer down your own anger?” Monkey cackles, “And why exactly did you chose not to sign them up for camp AT ALL for the entire month of August?” Reflections on you and your parenting, Monkey squeaks and then hops to a nearby branch to watch – peppering me with these not-so-generous questions that fuel my agitation.

If I listen to Monkey, I’m really screwed. Because then my personal stake in getting them to stop fighting is less about cultivating peace for the sake of harmony and more about validating my parenting skills. And that there thing, well that is a way towards real pain. Then I’m not seeing the children as human beings in their own right, I’m seeing them as an extension and expression of my maternal efforts.

Thankfully, my husband took the reins and I grabbed a breather to shake the Monkey off my back. In those fever-pitch moments, my breather looks like prayer, meditation, or writing. Even 10 minutes can transform the situation. The point of those few minutes is to shift my mindset from self-criticism towards a state of being kinder towards myself. Like drinking water in the desert, being genuinely loving to ourselves is essential, especially when things are rough.

The beautiful thing is that when we are more loving towards ourselves, we have more compassion for our vulnerabilities. We loosen the grip. In that state of mind, we can more readily connect to our true mother’s (or father’s) wisdom. We’re then positioned to see what needs more support, what needs to be pitched out, what needs to be cherished with more devotion.

We feel like ourselves again, centered and clear.

As you round out summer 2015, maybe you can find one way each day to be kinder to yourself, to express more of yourself, and to take breathers when necessary.