Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Can You Just Not: The Balance of Our Dualistic Selves in Parenting

 "Can you just not?!"
I snap at Eldest as he throws his spaghetti on my freshly mopped floors.  It's 6:30 pm and I feel confident that bedtime will never come, even though it is only thirty minutes away.  It's been one of those days- you know the kind, momma.  The kind where the children do not behave like a Pottery Barn ad, and, worse yet, they rub it in your face by smearing their dinner on the table, spitting on their sibling, and basically acting like a psychopath with a lack of awareness or cleanliness.
I cannot on days like this.
You know.  You know what I'm saying.
Because in this moment the exhaustion, frustration, messiness, and mothering has come to a head.  It doesn't look or feel beautiful.  It feels raw and anguished and unpleasant.

The other day I was lamenting my desperately sleep deprived life to my therapist.  I was complaining about parenting Eldest, in particular, as he is three, and three is when babies transition into children. Although, they're still babies that have just lost their minds, and decided that they are actually tiny adults with real opinions and thoughts.  Depending on the moment I am either thrilled to be in this parenting stage or I am absolutely considering which would be more painful- to listen to the one millionth tantrum of the day or to stick a fork in my eye.  It is debatable most days.  My lovely therapist empathized with me, but then said,
"You know, Laura, pain is the greatest motivator for change."
To which I replied in my whiniest voice, "I know, but what else can I do?? I want things to be different, but I am just tired of working and working and working."
And she replied, "Well then, apparently you just haven't had enough.  You just haven't had enough pain, Laura, because this is not working.  This is whining."
  Ugh.  I fired her that day.
But then I keep going back week after week and paying her. I know. That's exactly like firing her except it's not.

Remember this post?  Remember when I kept talking about allowing room for my child to be who he is meant to be?  Remember that?  Because I do. 
And I'm eating my words.
With every 4:30 am wake-up call from Eldest I find myself checking my resentment, anger, and frustration towards my miracle of a boy. Sometimes I can't tell if I'm coming or going.  If I am up or if I'm down.  Sometimes I feel like two totally different people altogether.  One second I am, "Princess Mommy Sunshine," and the next I am, "Queen Mommy Thunder."  I feel a lot of pressure to be "Princess Mommy Sunshine" all the live long day- from society, from my friends, from my family, from myself.  The pressure to be the "happy parent" is so fully ingrained in most of us that we neglect to stop and recognize the need for our stormier selves to come out.  Usually, I'm working so diligently to make everything happy and light that when things don't go according to plan I find myself asking,
"Why can't my child just sleep?"
"Why does dinner time have to be so hard at my house?"
"Why won't they just put their clothes on and play nicely?"
Whining Why indeed.
But I am slowly, at a snail's pace, learning that those may not be the right questions.  Those questions put the blame on my babies.  Those questions allow them to carry my baggage; a gift I do not wish to bestow upon them.  Those questions put them within the parameters of my expectations, which are only resentments waiting to happen when things do not add up in my mind.
So, maybe the questions should change.  Maybe the questions I should attempt to challenge myself with in the murky and difficult should sound more like this:
"Why does the lack of sleep make me want to bolt from this scene?"

"Why does their misbehavior embarrass me- especially when it is their misbehavior?"
"Why do I want my children to fulfill something for me?  What have I not done to fulfill that spot for myself?  What have I not done to allow God to help me fulfill that spot for myself?"
Why indeed.

Friends, it's time to change the conversation.  Dinner will not always go well.  Some kids are just not easy to parent.  Those things are true, but our response, instead of reaction, to those difficulties in parenting will make all the difference in ourselves.  In turn, our different approach will make all the difference in raising more self-aware, self-stable, and all-around more beneficial people to this planet. 
That starts with me.  That starts with you.  That starts with us.
Let's do this.  Let's be bigger and braver.  Let's ask the more difficult questions of ourselves. Let's really get to know ourselves.
Let's do this together.

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