Thinking aloud about parenting once more…

IMG_2050Once more I am sitting on the floor, facing the aching reality of my desire for perfection in this world. Once more I am undone by this world of parenting, by the large gap between theory and practice. Once more I am caught off guard by my inability to get inside my son’s mind and understand what is affecting his behaviour, what he’s been through in the days, how to help him be kind and gentle. Once more I am torn to pieces by bringing people into this world who might not make it better, who won’t live up to my perfectionist heart. Once more I am faced with the call to love, to love, to love. Once more I turn to the only place I know to find this source of love in the face of the unlovely.

It’s been a frustrating week or so with the eldest. Every now and again we connect but more often we clash and my head runs to fear of the future before it runs to hope for what might be. Too many times I’ve felt myself relating out of anxiety rather than patiently exploring what is going on in my son’s world, or indeed patiently waiting until he is ready to open up. I’m back in a familiar place in a vastly different context. Raising small people to live well in this world is pushing all my perfectionist buttons. I want to get it right, I want to be the parent who manages to relate well, connect deeply, be patient and kind, be caring, respect their rights, hold fairly to healthy boundaries and who manages to help their child be echoes of that in this world. Of course I’m not these things all the time. I am frustrated, exhausted, impatient, fearful and anxious. I am undone when they hurt each other, I take it personally, surely if I am doing my job as a parent well they shouldn’t hurt each other. Surely?

I wonder what we are aiming for in this weird world of parenting. I wonder where the room for failure is, on my part and theirs. I wonder how we can walk a path of grace in this world. I wonder if their behaviour is less a reflection of my parenting and more a reflection of being a human in this messed up broken world. I wonder if actually knowing their Maker more might not make them into better human beings but will help them know how to say sorry and know what it means to be forgiven. I wonder if I need to know that forgiveness more in my own heart and my need for forgiveness. I wonder if I need to kill the perfectionist in me. I wonder if I should read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly again.

I ache inside with fear at my son hurting others. The sad reality is that he does and will. I do too. We are not perfect, we cannot convince ourselves of this anymore. We are broken. But we are loved, we are everlastingly loved and as I remember that I am halted in my tracks. When my son hits me I have a choice to gently remind him that we don’t hit, that I love him, that I forgive him. I have no idea at the moment how to access the vast pool of emotions inside him that are working their way out at the end of each day. I can guess at them and allI I can do is be there to connect, to forgive, to patiently keep on loving, to not fear the future.

I can only do this because I have a parent who is doing this with me. When I stare at my son in confusion at his behaviour, when I choose to connect rather than run in fear, I sense again the divine presence, the God who parents me, who never gives up on me, who holds me in my fear, pain and confusion at this messy world.

I take the world on my shoulders, I blame myself for their behaviour and I forget that these small people who were born out of me, flesh of my flesh are learning their way to being independent creatures in this world. I am responsible for loving them well. I am not responsible for the choices they make (is that true?). I do my best to provide an environment of love, nurture and care, and still it will not be a perfect environment. I can ask for forgiveness and I can say sorry. There is so much I can’t do and am not responsible for. I can cry out to the one who can bring change to our fragile hearts, who can grow love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self control and gentleness in us and I can rest my sons in his mighty hands.

Anyone else struggle with this stuff? Anyone else got some wisdom?

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4 Responses to Thinking aloud about parenting once more…

  1. Louise Mabbs says:

    Kath, I know there’s loads of difficult stuff going on around you, but try not to be so hard on yourself!
    You’re doing good….the most important thing is that you are at peace with yourself, so you need to have time out to care for your own wellbeing. I know Tuesday Group helps with that a lot – it has been my lifeline over the years – to be with other younger women who want to know God more, be authentic in their faith, to pray with one another for strength for all this, and to have helpful discussions on parenting and faith.

    I struggled with low level depression and exhaustion most of the early years, my sewing and design time was essential to my sanity, but we got through it and my kids have grown up well rounded individuals. Sharing childcare and housework definitely helped with the balance for me & Alex. Somehow we got through several major illnesses (I thought I was going to loose Alex twice), too many house moves and hospitalisations for both of us. I had to learn to take one day at a time, for someone who’s very visionary and so big goal orientated, that was very hard in the beginning, but I can see God’s guided me through loads of horrible life stuff to become a lot more stoical, kind, caring and sturdy. The awful things can break us or they can make us call on God for the strength to get through it and the lessons we’ll learn in order to help others too. I know you can see that when you look back in what’s happened in your life so far.

    Re the hitting, have you talked to his teachers? Is he being picked on at school, or bullied elsewhere? Or is the teacher being mean? Josh had a vile teacher who I thought was a long term teacher, I didn’t take to her but didn’t know why and didn’t want to dislike her, but I didn’t find out till the end of the year that she was being really mean to him consistantly. It also turned out she was just qualified after being a classroom assistant for years and loads of other mothers disliked her. We’d moved from a 3 form school in London where his teachers loved him and appreciated his energy, using it to get him to help others and in other positive ways, and he had loads of friends who didn’t pick him up on a lisp he had, to a much smaller school and this first teacher in Hove was really mean to him, cramping his enthusiasm for life and seeing him as a problem all the time. Had I known what was going on I’d have asked the school to move him to the other teacher, he was fine with all the other teachers afterwards. Find ways to ask him about school when he’s in a good mood.

    Or maybe your eldest needs to run off his pent up energy at the end of the day? Especially if they’ve been cooped up due to rain. Also Joshua used to be awful after he had Wotsits – I put it down to the orange food colouring, he still has a tendency to go for orange things though he reckons he can handle them now (at 20). I remember once we went to a friends’ housewarming and was climbing all over the chairs uncontrollably, I was so embarrassed, then I realised he’d had lots of Wotsits and some of his other behaviour at other times started to make sense.

    Hugs, if you can get close! make a big difference too. Give them a drink and healthy snack, then sit down to read with them or just cuddle before starting making tea or whatever. You can alswys say it’s you who needs a cuddle because you’ve missed him all day. Maybe TV/computer is not the best thing straight away when he gets home?

    Also making sure both parents are consistent in the expectations of discipline and behaviour helps, nothing worse than a child running off to the other to be consoled and playing the parents off against one another. I’m sure you’re fine on this but it might be worth talking about it, things keep changing so much with young children, so we have to keep talking about how to handle each stage of development

    Hope some of this helps! One foot after another, lots of praise when they do good and gentle discipline when they’re calm enough to take it. And don’t beat yourself up – they’ll turn out fine!

    Love & prayers

    Louise

  2. caiobhesblog says:

    ‘I wonder if their behaviour is less a reflection of my parenting and more a reflection of being a human in this messed up broken world’ – hang on to that thought Kath. You are doing your best. That’s all that any of us can do. We get it wrong. I get it wrong. Just ask my children. But whatever comes, they know that I love them fiercely and so does their Father in Heaven. Parenting is the furnace that strips away everything from us. And there are no guarantees of anything. But it is still glorious. Find something that will make you and the eldest share a laugh together. Be your silliest. Let him eat his dinner with his fingers and you do the same. Go in the sea with your clothes on. Whatever thing you can do to just be yourselves with each other. It might be sitting together watching a cartoon. I don’t know – but I’m sure you do. Big hugs xxxx

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