Another Grateful Perspective
Melissa Fenton is an irreverent writer I follow on Facebook -- from her honest humor and the raucous shenanigans of her kids, you might guess she is 4BoysMother.
Her blog post Moms, You Need to Get Perspective moved me. As a volunteer at a cancer hospital, Melissa has a grave reminder to be thankful for what we have: "Because it could be worse."
It's powerful to steer my complaining heart -- The house is a gosh darn mess. Looks like a Typhoon 8 hit! -- toward acknowledging that at least my children are well enough to walk about and cause that destruction. I might still want to confront them, but I have more appreciation for my kids simply being in my life.
I haven't always heeded calls to savor my children's existence.
For a good stretch of years, parents with older kids would tell me, "Enjoy them when they are little! They grow up so fast." Their words often struck me as an irritating platitude that proved either 1)they had amnesia for how mind-numbingly tedious it was raising babies and toddlers or 2)they had a household staff of seven that allowed them to sit and be in the moment all the time.
Maybe I found it hard to embrace the mere fact of my little ones because of my perspective that parenting was akin to war. I would frequently, with both arms raised and a wry grimace, share my favorite analogy for it: surrender.
Surrender of what, you ask?
- Dignity -- remember peeing with a toddler between your knees?
- Quiet and neatness -- why exactly did I have three kids?
- Control -- I was a list cross-offer who suddenly wasn't crossing off the right things because I was responding to "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy" 3000 times/day. (Occasionally, desperate for something to SHOW for my efforts, I would assign my husband kid duty and growl to all, "Stay out of my way," as I tackled a project.)
Though I was an authoritarian parent, I didn't feel at all like I was in the driver's seat. Rather, I felt depleted and not in charge of much going on in the house, least of all my short temper.
Thank goodness I found Parent Effectiveness Training when I did -- my kids were already 13, 11 and 8 but it wasn't too late (and it really never is). The time was right and there was space in my life to start approaching problems with empathy, clarity and an attitude of wanting to bring out the best in everyone.
So when I read Melissa's post, I layered in my own private perspective on top of her poignant "it could be worse" illustrations:
It could have been worse.
I know where my family's story arc was heading before I signed up for that parenting course in 2011. Things were really, very, truly bad. I felt I might lose my middle child (then 11), not to death or illness, but to a parenting style that was strict, judgmental and incapable of compassion when he was out of control emotionally (and, gee, who did he get that from?).
Now my children and their peers are navigating teenage and tweenage worlds. The problems -- though I'm not saying they always are -- can definitely feel bigger. The more I read, teach and surf the net, the more I feel:
Yep, it really could have been so much worse.
So to build on Melissa's entry (with her blessings!):
- It could be me kissing . . . an unbearably bony forearm that my daughter, shockingly, somehow -- HOW!?!? -- believes determines her self-worth; she won't show her wasting-away body to me, so I have come into her room to weep as she sleeps.
- It could be an alarm beeping . . . that wakes me up at 3am to see if my son has come home yet. He doesn't heed curfew and we barely talk anymore and I don't know what to do.
- It could be an afternoon . . . when I overhear my child asking a friend, "So, how do I NOT become like my father?" and I mourn the loss of their relationship, aching with the memory of the first time my husband held his tiny body up to his tired, awed face.
- It could be a witching hour where . . . the food gets cold on the table while I vainly try to stop a fist fight between two brothers who are painfully out of touch with each other and their own hearts.
- It could be me sliding into bed . . . numb with futility as I see less of my children and more of my insignificance in their lives; I have neither power nor influence.
But it is not at all worse.
It is indescribably better around here.
It is the kind of better . . . that inspires me to continue blogging and teaching parents who come to my P.E.T. course, with a special place in my heart for those with older kids who, just like me, have more back-pedaling and repair to do.
My perspective helps me -- in the present moment, with the skills I have right now -- to be ever so grateful:
No matter how hard things get, it could be, and could have been, so much worse.
Not only are Harrison, Jake & Claudia alive and healthy, they are also in warm relationship with me.
I don't ask for more than that.
Do you have the perspective you want on parenting?
Are you full of gratitude? Joy? Confidence? Contentment? Optimism?
If you feel you have no control -- over your anger towards your kids, over your reactions and judgments, over them listening to you -- please know that you are not alone in your burnt out and despairing state! Parenting is supremely difficult and, yet, we are not offered support as a matter of course. By luck, sheer luck, I stumbled upon a class.
Knowing you have options to help yourself is crucial:
Please consider signing up for a P.E.T. course and moving towards more control gained through discussion and practice in a supportive setting.
It's pretty much a given that you will be thrown new, never-before-seen curveballs as your kids grow older. Being able to apply the Behavior Window and its corresponding set of skills -- including Active Listening, Confrontive I-Messages, Method III Problem-Solving and Consulting -- you can feel the control necessary for you and your kids to knock those problems out of the park together.
Credits: Eye (http://jonodry.deviantart.com/art/Perspective-Eye-422533029); Parent in yoga pose (http://peacefulparenting.com.au/peaceful-parenting-online-course-2/).