Parenting. Who knew?
Who knew it would feel like walking in circles. Or — what’s that one from pinterest? — brushing your teeth while eating an Oreo cookie. Or like that woodpecker who decided to try out the siding by our front door the other day: you bang your head over and over again and nothing good comes out.
I wouldn’t really say that it’s been a rough go around here lately. It’s just that it feels like it’s the same thing over and over again. And it’s mostly related to caring. Care about your things by not leaving them all around the house. Care about others by helping out WITHOUT sighing and grumbling.
And I am patient and I remind the kids to care and be kind and I parent with kindness. UNTIL. Until I just can’t anymore. And lately it’s not that I get to that place sooner. It’s that when I so finally get to that place I am there instantly. There’s no easing into the frustration, it’s all right there and I’m at the top of the mountain screaming down to the unwary villagers below who have no idea the avalanche of anger and frustration that’s about to roll on top of them.
It feels really good.
No. Not a bit. But in a way I feel helpless to stop it. I FEEL so much. I get so very frustrated. And I feel so very powerless — to change them and to change me.
The other day Madeline was looking for a certain pair of pyjamas. She’s been living out of a laundry basket of her clean clothes on my bedroom floor for a month now (grrr!), and just that day I’d folded the laundry and put hers in that basket with the intention that she’d take it all to her room and FINALLY put all of her clothes away and out of my room. Well, that message of needing to put the clothes did not get relayed to her (or any of the children) that night when I went out (though I’d given Marc those instructions). And, instead, Madeline looked for her pjs by rooting through the basket turning all of the folded clothes into a big messy heap on top of the basket.
Was I impressed? No. Did I speak to her with a very annoyed voice which, now that she has teenage hormones starting, causes her to either get really sassy or burst into tears? Yes. That night it was tears. So I lead my daughter to tears.
Notice how I said that: “I lead my daughter to tears.”
You know what I think a good chunk of my frustration is these days? I feel like everything’s my fault. My kids are messy because I don’t discipline enough and am not organized enough to lay out their chores clearly. If they are ungrateful it’s because I’m not grateful and have not “fostered” a spirit of gratitude in my home. (I’ve read a lot about attachment lately — which is not necessarily the same as “attachment parenting” — and it sure is a great way to realize that parents are to blame. I know that’s not entirely true, but it really feels like it sometimes in the literature.)
And all of that self-blame makes me react to not just whatever my kids are doing, but it makes me feel all of my faults as well. All of the guilt and shame I feel for “making them” the way that they are. Funny, how I so easily take responsibility for all of the bad things and not the good…
But this story does have a happy ending. Well, at least the laundry story does (as today was not a particularly happy day in Vanderworld.) I stopped. I took a deep breath. And I realized I was looking at an emotional pre-teen who was crying. And yes, in my head, I remembered my neuroscience textbook that said I needed to engage in right brain to right brain connection with her to change the neural circuitry of this moment to something caring and empathic rather than angry and isolating. And so I consciously chose to feel compassion for her instead of blame for myself. And I hugged her and said everything was okay. And then she explained to me that she did what she did because she was trying to keep the clothes off the floor because she knows how frustrated I get when clothes are on my bedroom floor.
She was just trying to do what would make me happy.
It’s hard being a parent. And I *do* know that I not am sole reason they are the way they are. I really do.
Just lately it feels like I am. And to carry on my shoulders the weight of the state of this messy house and the actions and intentions of all the people in it… well, that’s enough to make even the coolest person (which I am not) lose it every once in a while.
So, since I have to go for my mandatory six sessions of personal counselling because I’m a counsellor-in-training, I’m going to unpack this a bit with my therapist. Is it because I’m an over-achiever? Is it because I think that it is bad to be angry about things? Is it because I actually do think everything is my fault — because secretly, deep down I’d like to control everything?
Or is it just because I’m a human being… and I find it hard to be a human being a bit more these days because being a human being is just hard sometimes…