Friday, April 21, 2017

Parenting Fails – The Beginning of Parenting Well

Yesterday, I failed as a parent.  Not a fail, full stop, but many mini-failures to be exact.  

In fact, every day for the past nine and a half years, since my oldest child was born, I have felt at some point during the day, like a failure.  And the worst kind.

A p
arenting failure.

If I had to choose one thing to succeed at, the most important thing to do right in my life, it would be this parenting thing.  

So you might think that that's left me feeling pretty bad about my string of parenting fails.  But that, my friend, is not the case.

There is not a thing in this life that I’ve learned to do well without first failing at it for an exceedingly long while.  In fact, I don’t think there’s a thing I do worth doing that I don’t regularly fail at.  Even the things I've practiced for years.

There are no perfect people, and there are no perfect parents.  There are no perfect children either, if I’m being truthful.  

There are only those of us who fail and see it as a reinforcement of our not being good enough, and there are those of us who fail and see it as proof that we’re fucking trying.  Trying and failing and trying and failing and trying and failing.

Until once, maybe even once a day if we’re lucky, we try and we succeed.

Yesterday’s failures weren’t all that different from the previous days.  Or the days before that.  

We are in the final stretches of the school year, and this week I have been off work and home with the children during spring break.  Which is really just a little taste of the wonderful, yet torturous summer break.  My children are all in elementary school, and with three kids that close in age, we go through our fair share of bickering and fighting and the like each day. 

Some days, I keep my cool.  

Some days, I don’t mind so much when they don’t hear me speak, when I feel invisible save for the moments they need me to make them food or put on a bandage or referee an argument.  

Some days, I’ve got it all together.

Yesterday was not one of those days.

I wasn’t my best self.  I got frustrated with the fighting.  I let it out during bath time shenanigans.  I made mental notes (Note to self: As much fun as bath time is when more than one gets into the tub, they are now too old and too big and just too crazy for that to work for this family.)   And yes, if you’re reading this and thinking, "Oh my god, I can’t believe she still lets her kids take baths together," well, 1) you’re right and 2) you are obviously a superior parent than I.  (and for the record I don’t anymore... starting yesterday.)

But bath time aside, I just didn’t react well to some of the things my little people were throwing at me yesterday. And it wasn't long before I felt it.  

Not a few minutes after letting my angry lady fly, I felt the familiar twinge of regret.  Parental shame.  Mommy guilt.  Yep, we all know it well. 

I found myself coming down hard on one child in particular yesterday, as is often the case for some reason.  Not the same child all the time, thankfully, but usually one is the trigger on any given day, and yesterday was no different.

Once I’d gotten myself a bit of space, and let the air clear and the coolness settle back in, I swallowed a good dose of regret and called my oldest down stairs.

I’m pretty sure by the look on her face, she was expecting demon mommy to be waiting for her.  But I’m happy to report that, instead, the mom I want to be greeted her.  I closed the door, and sat on the edge of the bed, and we had a little heart to heart.

My children are no strangers to the emotions of their parents.  We try to be as open and honest with them as they can handle at their various ages and stages, so at this point, I can give it to her pretty straight.  We talked about the things that upset me, my reaction to it, and hers as well.  We talked about what is and is not okay in our home, and the why behind the rule.  And then I did the thing which flips the fail.  The single most impactful thing I do as a parent.

I apologized.

I didn’t apologize for the message but for the way I delivered it to her initially.  For not taking a moment to calm down first.  For letting the instinct to react overpower the need to be purposeful and mindful as her parent.  I apologized for not gathering myself and addressing my own issues before attempting to parent the behavior out of her.  

That was the fail.  And that was what I needed to rectify.

We hugged and laughed about it, and I made sure she knew what my heart needed her to know.  And then we moved on.

Things aren't always this easy to fix.  Sometimes, with some things, apologies aren’t enough.  Sometimes trust must be regained.  Sometimes bridges must be rebuilt.  

But that’s the beauty of the gig.  

That’s where the growth begins, at the edge of my comfort, at the point where I truly don’t know where to go next.  And for me at least, if I can step back, see things for what they are, and then parent from a place of growth instead of a place of shock or fear or control, things turn out well.

And when I can’t or don’t parent that way, when I let the less-than-awesome me take the parental wheel, I allow myself to find success once I’ve regained control and shifted the course back to where I know I want to be.  

I can’t expect my children to be perfect.  They have an imperfect mother.  But I can model repentance and forgiveness, and just maybe, they will learn to see failure as the beautifully crooked journey that it is.


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