Ghosts from the Past
“Act your age!”
“Because I said so!”
“Don’t make me come over there…”
“I said, SIT DOWN!”
As our children grow and become more adept at challenging our boundaries, an incredible thing happens. Our kind language and “mindful” parenting get sucked out the window and are replaced by some angry glares and old classics like those above.
All of those parenting books and classes, earnest intentions, and desperate promises to not repeat the past are dwarfed by an intensity of emotion that comes at us with such ease it’s stunning.
When “mean mommy” or “mad daddy” comes to visit, we often simply collect further evidence that we are doomed to be terrible parents and stumble forward feeling guilty and hopeless. There is absolutely no value in this path….for our kids or for us as parents. Getting stuck in guilt leaves us paralyzed and ineffective. It doesn’t help our kids feel better when we feel guilty…it makes them feel worse!
Truth is, we’re all going to make parenting mistakes. A lot of them.
Expecting anything more of ourselves in such an emotionally turbulent relationship would be a constant source of disappointment.
Perfection is impossible if you’re really connected and in love. There’s too much vulnerability there for anything more than an emotional minefield. The highest highs come along with those lowest lows. It’s a package deal, folks.
When I do make parenting mistakes I try to hold myself to this process and help other parents do the same:
(1) Apologize to whoever needs an apology.
(2) Ask myself some hard questions: Which of my “triggers” was present? Why was it particularly hard this time?
(3) Come up with a new strategy I can try next time.
It can be exhausting to stay committed to our parenting goals after so many mistakes and clean-ups occur. Sometimes it feels like, “Why should I clean the kitchen when it’s just going to get dirty again?”
In my experience, parenting heartache has been my most effective tool for self-exploration and growth. I’ve learned so much about the little tender spots in my heart….so much faster and with more voracity that I would have otherwise.
So, this isn’t just about becoming the parents we want to be….it’s about exploring ourselves on the deepest levels and becoming the people we want to be.