I don’t know if it is a developmental phase or if I am just getting worse at being a mother as my kids and I get older. I end many days lately feeling washed over with guilt and then spend an hour taking a hot shower, breathing and stretching to relieve the tension. You’d think all the yoga would have a cumulative effect and make me so patient that nothing would ruffle my feathers. Oh, how I wish. And that will continue to be my goal, my daily intention. Yet, the truth is, yoga helps but has not taken away the utter frustration a 6-year-old child can bring on. I think by the end of a day with children it is the frustration that has the cumulative effect.
We had a lovely weekend day spent outside playing, having a picnic, swinging, and generally feeling happy with the intermittent defiance, not listening and arguing peppering the day. Then we had a nice dinner at the beach.
I think I always anticipated parenting getting easier over time or maybe that has always been wishful thinking. Somewhere in my sleep-deprived state with young babies, I assumed anything could be handled with proper sleep; therefore, if my children grew up and I was getting sleep then all would be a breeze. Oh, naïve young parent. Now, as my daughter has entered the school system I have been slapped in the face with a fierce sting of reality. Parenting gets exponentially harder the older they get and no amount of sleep takes away the worry and exhaustion from the issues they bring home.
Whether she brings home an annoying phrase or bad word; sadness over a friend saying she and her friends would hurt her if she came to the other girl’s birthday party (yes, this was an issue recently that in the end was a misunderstanding); news of another child saying “I’ll kill you” on the playground (yep, another real thing that the boy was just spouting stuff and said he was sorry); an announcement that she is “engaged” (to which her dad almost choked on his dinner)…the list goes on and on with issues ranging from those that are truly hurtful to others that require lessons she is far too young to fully understand.
Then there is the worry over how she will grow up and what will influence her. Will she stand firm on her own two feet? Will she allow her beauty to guide her or will others take advantage of her? Will she stand up for herself? Because her young stubborn self certainly seems to be pointing in that direction and if so, should I be careful not to stifle it?
Goodness, the list of questions goes on and on and there are no clear answers. We learn in the young baby stages to do what needs to be done for our kids even if they don’t like it and they take it, maybe while crying. But a baby forgets the discomfort the second after it ends. Not a young child though and thoughts of future arguments with my teenage daughter haunt me. If one day I am not as patient as I want to be and engage in nonsense arguments, will she end up hating me until the day she has her own child?
It is easier with my son, because he’s younger and I’ve been around this block one time before. I feel guilt over that, that it may seem he is loved more because he’s just easier. I read this blog post perfectly timed with the day’s particularly rough evening and when the author said that teachers and caregivers choose to work with ages they connect with best but parents don’t get to choose yet there are certainly ages and stages we prefer. And that is okay. I can honestly say toddler-hood is one of my favorite stages. They are so sweet, they love you so much, they may put up a fight or throw a tantrum but it is manageable; they are still small and ultimately they will do what you ask even if after a time-out. The sad truth is I think my daughter will always have it harder because she is the first child and everything she does is my first as a parent too. I will likely handle most situations with my son with greater ease by virtue of having experienced it or something similar to it before, and he will always be younger and the baby…I will always relish his youth because he is my last child. That is the sad truth. I don’t intend to put that pressure on my daughter; it’s just a fact of birth order. And she holds many benefits as the first child that I feel guilt for my son too. The guilt is always there.
So, after all of this complaining and not ending with an inspiring message about how thankful I am to have happy and healthy children, which I am of course, I will at least leave you with my action plan and how I cope with my lack of patience and the guilt that follows:
- Do more yoga
- Have your husband, partner, friend, etc. give you a good laugh at the parenting issues that sometimes weigh you down, laughter really is such good medicine
- Practice these patience-inducing techniques from Rick Hanson: “Play with routine situations – such as a meal – and take a few extra seconds or minutes before starting, in order to strengthen your patience muscles. Offer patience as a gift – to others, dealing with their own issues, and to yourself, wanting true happiness.”
- Relieve tension however you can: hot shower, glass of wine, writing, meditation, therapy, Xanax…whatever 😉
- Eat Girl Scout cookies
- Try better tomorrow
After a hot shower and some writing to end the above tense evening, I had a nice fire-side chat with my husband with a “couple” (wink wink Nancy) glasses of Pinot Noir . Our chat ended with my husband making me almost cry with laughter and we agreed that ultimately we just want our kids to be happy and good people. I’ll add to that list that they also won’t need ongoing therapy and one day will look back and have a “light bulb” moment either with:
a) my mom did a damn good job (preferred choice)
b) this parenting shit is hard, my mom did pretty awesome, considering.
Then I read a good book and slept well which all helped me to wake up this morning to the new day ready to do better.