Today a mental health professional told me that she was "concerned" about A's level of anxiety. Concerned that A doesn't believe that we (her parents) are ever safe, that A believes disaster may befall us at any moment. And then she used the words biochemical and my daughter's name in the same sentence. And then I started crying.
I really thought that I wanted this therapist to tell us that the problem was A. That my parenting was fine and reasonable and clearly I have a difficult child. That's what she told us and, as it turns out that is not at all what I wanted to hear. The truth that I didn't realize, is that I wanted to hear that her behavior is well within the bounds of normal. That all kids worry and freak out in the same way, or at least the same level that she does. I wanted her to say, "No need to worry. Work harder at the business of parenting and your kid will feel better and safer."
I just read a blog post about not being a dick. Particularly in restaurants. Why do we need to be reminded not to be a dick?! Why do we need to be reminded not to yell at a toddler that does not live under our roof? Why do we need to be reminded that if you drop a bunch of shit on the floor at a diner you should a) pick it up or b) leave a big tip? Probably both actually. Really?! We need someone to remind us of this?! What is wrong with us?
We are the moral compasses for our children. And sometimes our children's friends. They are figuring out how to navigate the tricky waters of social interaction. They're watching and they are mirroring us. All. The. Time. If we are rude in a restaurant, so are they. If we yell at her teacher when things don't go as planned, so will she. When we let rudeness or meanness spill from our mouths, we are doing our babies a disservice. Rudeness will not serve them well in the long run.
We are also perpetuating a symptom of the human disconnect that we are all suffering right now. We have forgotten that we are human together. That we have the same feelings as everyone else.
I yelled again. I abhor the yelling. It's so big and loud and it scares the girls. It accomplishes nothing. Except that it makes me feel a smidge better. Until the guilt sets in. Which takes about a nanosecond. It does not solve the actual problem. As I write this it occurs to me that maybe I'm not facing "problems", but normal childhood and normal parenthood. ??!! Really, could it possibly just be this hard?! Bah!
My big girl is a stress ball. Her tummy hurts. She cries. A lot. She yells at me. Often. She worries. Often. I'm pretty sure that much of A's anxiety and stress comes from every single little (and big) thing not being perfect all of the time. I get it. I also like things to be just so. But the truth is, perfection is subjective. Often, I don't even get a little bit, what it is that she is looking for. I don't understand her picture of perfect. The crying that ensues from the lack of perfection that I don't even understand irritates me. A lot.
I want to be better at this. I don't want to yell (or sigh that super irritated sigh or throw up my hands and walk away). I want to fold her up in a big hug and just be with her. Sit with those big emotions. I want to be this kind of mama, but so often I don't quite make it. Sometimes I do.
It's hard to remember that she's not doing this to drive me bat shit crazy. It's not actually about me. (I know, what?! Not about me?!) She's just doing the best she can. But there's been crying and yelling and mean words over the clay that would not become a perfect dragon and also the paint got mixed in the wrong way and there was that time that the rock stack was not stacking properly. So much carrying on! And while these things don't matter even a little bit to me, they matter to her. Each project and failed paint mixing is a big deal to A. I will say it again, it is a big deal. To her it is a big deal and that is what actually matters.
But therein lies the challenge, right? How to teach our sweet, crying perfectionists that not everything is a big deal and that not everything will be just so all of the time, but that's ok, because not every damn thing is such a big damn deal! But also don't go diminishing their feelings and ideas. Walk the balance. It's really effing tricky!
I'm Molly. I'm all in for parenting. I'm all in for good food. All in for big and small outdoor adventures. And really only partly in for homemaking. I want a Martha Stewart home and meal, but the truth is, we mamas just can't do it all. Not really. This shit is tricky!
This is a collection of musings and missives about parenting like you mean it. I mean really mean it. About how you can pull off a really mostly decent meal, keep your house kinda clean, do some of your laundry, and also even remember to usually feed your pets. But mostly about how being a mama is hard and we can totally rock it, but maybe that dream of perfection has got to give a little.