During my 4.5 years of being a mother, I have noticed myself go from, “I am rocking this mom thing” to “I am screwing my child up for life” in a matter of 60 seconds.
I strive (daily) to be a good mother but this is the most challenging job I have ever had and it will be the job I am assigned to for the rest of my life… There is no retirement from parenting. It is very stressful at times and I lose my cool more often than I like to admit.
I grew up with a screaming parent. I had decided at a very young age that I would NEVER be that mom. I wanted my children to feel loved and supported and for their feelings to be validated instead of shunning them for not obeying or losing my temper over their simple curiosity and comedic impulses. I wanted to be that parent who understands that children just want acceptance and hugs. I read many books about child development and how to be calm, cool and collected at all times in this ever-changing job position.
But this morning, as I was having a screaming war with my son over brushing his teeth before school, I saw his small body trembling with anger and exhausted from the battle and I realized that I have allowed myself to lose sight of who he is… I have allowed myself to fall into patterns of behavior instead of using the tools I have learned about child-parent dynamics… I have allowed myself to be that screaming parent… and I crumbled. My beautiful boy deserves better.
So, I went back to some insights I have accumulated throughout the years to center my thoughts. I am amazed at the calm I feel just by reading them out loud to myself. I am even more amazed that I have lost sight of so many of these thoughts for one reason or another over time. My reality of parenting has not been jiving with my intentions and it is time for a check-in:
1) Good parenting means taking care of yourself first.
Think of it the same as you are taught on an airplane… you must put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can help anyone else. If you neglect your own body and mind, you are really neglecting your child’s, as well. We cannot give a warm drink to someone with an empty carafe. Eat well, sleep well, exercise your body and take time to breathe and you can go into situations with enough understanding and awareness to make sure everyone wins. (This is something Ella certainly drives home in the Plant-Empowered Coaching Program.)
2) Being imperfect is absolutely perfect.
No one is perfect! How beautiful and freeing that statement feels. So many children are being taught that being wrong about something holds a bad connotation. I remember being in school and being terrified to raise my hand because I was afraid of answering incorrectly and (possibly) being ridiculed by my teachers and peers over it.
As an adult I realize that being wrong is important to learn anything. Do we ever truly learn from being right all the time? Our own focus on perfection trickles down to our children… whether it be about grades, appearance, weight or the like. Just as it is important for adults to know and practice this idea, it is even more vital for children to be comfortable with making mistakes and with being imperfect for their own mental health. As adults, we can reason on a different level than children, whose brains are developing well into teen-hood. They are more susceptible to allowing negative thoughts about themselves and others to take over their lives. Teach them that there is nothing wrong with a challenge and to welcome imperfection with a smile.
3) Being mindful is more important than being in control.
The times when I am fighting for control are the times when I have lost control completely. When I stop to take a breath to snap out of that space, my body is shaking from anger and my son is either screaming at me or crying because I hurt his feelings. At that point, it feels like it is too late for this fight to come to a calm conclusion. If I had just opened my eyes to look at him and asked what he needed or wanted, it would have changed the course of the entire situation. Instead, I scoop him up and hold him in my arms and apologize over and over again, allowing the guilt to run so deeply that I ache in my fingertips.
Children’s feelings are often bigger than them and it is our job as the adult to help them to understand their emotions and focus their reactions appropriately. Next time you feel that pit of anger welling up because your child is doing the exact opposite of what you think he should do… take a breath and walk away so that you can focus on his needs and to help him to work through his feelings.
4) Take time to play and get in touch with your inner child.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.” Embracing the nostalgia of what made childhood so great is all about freedom to just have fun, to be outside, to run wildly, to explore, to play a game, to sing, to dance and to, simply, take time to laugh heartily.
While our idea of fun has changed quite a bit as we have aged, I have never seen a person, at any age, with a frown on her face while doing something she loves. Play with your kiddo as often as possible… remind yourself what it was like to be that young… embrace it and do it often. Show your mini that you are never too old to have fun.
5) It’s okay to be late.
Let’s face it, when you have children, being on-time for anything goes out the window. IT’S OK! It is not the end of the world and people usually understand (and if they don’t, that’s OK, too). I am not saying be an hour late and expect that others will let it go… but being ten minutes late is not a make-or-break situation. Don’t stress yourself and your child out by pushing perfection here.
6) My house is clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy.
My mother had this sign hanging on the kitchen wall for my entire childhood. While we always had a clean home, my mother never worried if our toys were in the living room because that meant we were having fun and that was more important to her than having everything in its place at all times.
Before I had my son, I had a rigid cleaning schedule for my home. I even had a calendar to remind me what to clean and when. I realized very quickly into parenthood that that way of being caused me more anxiety than anything else. I had to let go a bit and know that the “Cleaning Police” were not going to barge into my house and take me away if there was a little dust on the mantle. If there is a choice between spending time with your family or cleaning… choose family and enjoy every minute.
7) My child loves me unconditionally.
I am always amazed that, no matter how many times I “mess up” this parenting thing, my son always gives me a kiss and hug before bed. He never holds onto the anger or resents me for my reactions. He only wants to know that I will always love him, back. He wants my approval, my guidance, my arms to hug him and for me to play with him as often as possible. Children tend to be more forgiving than adults… we should take a lesson from them.
8) It’s okay to give in.
There are times when I ask myself, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?” Not everything has to be something. If it doesn’t matter that much, then don’t make it a bigger deal than it needs to be just to prove a point. It’s ok to let something go and give in to your child sometimes… you will not ruin him or make him a menace to society if an argument ends with you saying, “You know what? I don’t want to fight anymore… just eat the cookie for dinner and enjoy it.” Pick your battles.
9) Children are always testing their wings, not you!
More often than not, children are trying to see the extent of their own abilities. They are not purposefully trying to piss you off… it’s not personal. They want to be strong, independent and reach their dreams whether that means wearing the same Superman shirt everyday or climbing to the highest point on the playground. They don’t know how you feel about the situation and they usually don’t care (children are naturally egocentric… their world is the only world). It’s more about living moment to moment for them rather than whatever consequences will follow.
Take time to explain to them what can happen, or why you are angry, or how they can make better choices rather than yelling at them for not doing something the way you want them to. They might not always agree or understand, but they will likely feel more loved and respected if you talk with them rather than at them.
10) I am enough!
There will be plenty of times when you will doubt your abilities and feel like you can do better. I am a firm believer that the Universe gives us what we need when we need it. Our children challenge us to be better than we’ve ever been before and the Universe would never have done that if it didn’t know that we are ready for it. You are enough.. in fact, you are more than enough. You are an AWESOME parent!