We grow up with our kids
The other day I listened to Sarah give herself a hard time for being inpatient with her 8-year-old daughter. “We were picking up her toys and she just wouldn’t finish the job”, the mom complained. “I just got more and more annoyed. Later in the day, I was still thinking about it. It ruined my entire afternoon!”
Sarah found herself ruminating about the incident, but what was it that really bothered her? Why was she thinking about it hours later? After all, the whole business was pretty minor.
Of course, most Moms and Dads take parenting pretty seriously. It’s a big assignment and we all want to do a good job. More importantly, we want our kids to grow into responsible healthy adults who are able to follow through on their commitments. Teaching our kids about fulfilling their obligations in childhood is important. But, lets face it, it’s hard to know when to stick to your guns about something you want your child to do and when to let it go—especially with younger children who have shorter attention spans.
But what really bothered Sarah was how annoyed and irritated she was at her daughter! She was unhappy with her own intense negative reaction to her youngster’s behavior. She was mad at herself for being mad. Why couldn’t she be more relaxed and patient with her 2nd grader?
Sigh. All of us Moms and Dads are so hard on ourselves. We can be a perfectionistic when it comes to parenting. We want to be icons of patience, calm, and clarity. We should never lose our cool even when we are hungry and tired. On top of that, we should never be petty or small-minded. We should be able to weather every emotional storm with a smile on our face.
How do we cope with our own flaws and idiosyncrasies during the helter skelter years of childrearing? These years are challenging. The way we want to be (cool, calm, centered, and clear) frequently differs from the way we are (petty, grumpy, tired, inpatient).
- Be generous with yourself. None of us our perfect! Like everyone else we have our good, better, and bad moments. Celebrate the good moments; be kind to yourself during the bad ones. The good news---kids are far more forgiving of us than we are of ourselves.
- Accept your own foibles. It’s okay to visit pity city, but don’t move there. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself—feeling bad about your own bad feelings or behavior. Instead, try to adopt a more neutral attitude towards your own idiosyncrasies.
When my daughters were teens, their lives seemed like a constant soap opera. Often, I found myself overreacting to their dramas. When I did react, I felt bad about myself later. While I did improve somewhat over those years, I had to accept that I did have a strong negative reaction to their melodramas. That was just way I’m wired. That didn’t go away even when I learned to keep it to myself.
- We grow up with our children. Our kids help us become more mature, aware, and yes, even wise. They teach us how to become better people. Our quest to be first-rate parents brings us greater awareness of ourselves. But we also have to nurture realistic expectations about ourselves—and our kids.