Get Your Sh*t Together!
In every grocery store line, restaurant, and retail store look around for children and easily identify a parent running after a child. The parent moves quickly and frantically, often with sunken dark eyes, while they pull out their hair in the hope to win another round of tag.
The lone adult without kids may still be a parent but whose sons or daughters are absent as they have grown into adolescents and want nothing to do with them. These kids have disappeared into the depths of independence leaving the parent alone and constantly wondering, “Are they okay? Doing drugs? Having sex? Are they safe?” These parents worry constantly that their kid will show up for dinner on time with all his fingers intact, still holding his moral impulses.
This bleak but common experience of parenthood does not have to be you. Yes, you will have stressful moments. You may go gray and loose your hair faster than your child-free friends but the joys of parenthood far outweigh the stress and anxiety that attempts to run your life.
A few helpful hints…
You will get through this.
Parent or not, it is a constant challenge to stay grounded and present. Not only do you have to keep your kids fed, healthy, safe, and alive – you must manage the heavy responsibilities of your career, finances, personal health, and relationships (… a list that only grows). These are all good reasons to loose it. These kids will slowly break you down, and when you snap, you might not even notice. Don’t let being a parent compromise who you are and who you have the potential to be. You must take care of yourself if you hope to take care of your children.
There are many ways to practice self-care. We are often just too busy to remember to do it. Remember what it was like before kids. Did you go to the gym, run, or do yoga? When was the last time you grew your own tomatoes, enjoyed a good book, or took a hot bath? Try to make more time for these interests, as it is the best way to refuel your energy as a parent.
Often times we get stuck in our past while moving too quickly into the future. Find the present moment by bringing your focus to the sensation of the breath. This is the practice of mindful breathing. Notice and nurture your breath and everything else will melt away – at least for that moment, which is all you may need.
Model Your Results
One of my favorite quotes comes from Mark Twain who said, “Don’t let school ruin your education.” Although this quote may apply to gaining experience outside of a formal educational setting – in the context of parenthood, I believe it is a reminder not to rely on other people to teach your children. You are with them the most. You have the power to set healthy boundaries and positive examples in the relationship. You are their leader and it is your job to educate and guide them.
Everything you do is a lesson to your child. In most part, they are a direct reflection of you. Notice when they have a tantrum, you too often shout back, fuss, and complain. Learn to control these impulses. Find other, more mature, ways to emote your frustration, disappointment, and anger. Practice self-care and your child will notice. Model respect and your child will gain this valuable skill. Engage in healthy and safe relationships and hope that your child will choose the same.
Modeling your results looks a more like doing than telling.
Remember Your Childhood
Have you ever come across a landmark or sensory reminder that takes you back to childhood? Maybe it was the scent of pine that triggered opening presents on Christmas morning or the smell of leather that takes you back to buying your first baseball glove. The moment hits quickly, begging you to hold onto it.
Unfortunately, not all memories are Disney themed. Perhaps the smell of pine reminds you of parents fighting over having no presents under the tree. What if that leathery smell reminded you of when your father hit you across the face with your new glove because you dropped a catch?
We all have the experience of being a child on our resume. Every moment of our lives mattered and every memory stored itself in our brains. They tell tell us what to believe, who to trust, and how to love. Everything the people around us did had meaning and power. We remember what felt good and what felt bad. As we grew into adulthood we rebelled the negative and searched for something positive. We promised ourselves that we could be better and do better.
And then we become parents, and forget it all, stuck in a perpetual mode of survival and adult responsibilities.
As much as you can, nurture your children and understand that every moment with them will have a memory attached to it. Put yourself in their shoes. Remember your childhood, what you valued, and what you wished was different. Imagine that your kids will one day be reminded of a childhood that births wonder and laughter.
This will help your empathy grow and influence healthy parenting choices.
Note to Self… Follow My Own Advice
As a father, I understand the difficulties of these tasks. I wrote them not as an expert but someone who, like you, wants to be a good parent. They are a reminder of my own goals as I walk this path with you.
We are in this together.