Gentle Parents Need Help | Personal Post

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Something interesting I am finding in this parenting thing. The more I chill out and don’t try to control, the more I like not only myself and my kids, but even just being a parent. 

The less I am micromanaging their behavior in judgmental ways, the more willing they seem to be to hear me when there is a problem that needs discussing. When I just spend time with them, and just let them be their silly, loud, unrestrained selves - no judgement from me, our relationship becomes so enjoyable. It’s hard to explain. But I’m actually liking hanging out with my kids and just watching them play and laughing at their silly shenanigans and outright childish genius. The things they come up with?! They are incredible little humans!

When they know they have my attention, but that I have self love enough not to allow or accept abuse from them, there becomes a mutual respect between us all and I don’t have to issue commands anymore. As we build joyful times together, it makes minor corrections stay minor. Example: this evening, I stayed close to them as much as I could but just let them play. I laughed at their silliness, sang songs in response to their questions, and snuggled with them when they wanted to... as their play transitioned, we ended up in the bedroom after they had showered. To be honest I was feeling extra TIRED today. (Literally just wanting Netflix and ice cream tonight!) I wrapped them in towels and lay down in bed. They dried themselves and started climbing all over their new (and temporary) bunk bed, swinging on the many bars like little gymnasts and monkeys. But as much as we are fine with nakedness in our house, we don’t tolerate touching each other’s privates. This time when I started to correct them, it was different. It was easier. All I had to do was ask them to stop and remind them of the rule they know. They did it again and I helped them put on clothes. No more issues and play continued! No crying, no yelling, no hitting and no hurt feelings. 

I never honestly thought this would be possible. I thought, like so many mothers I know, that I was doomed to only accept and tolerate motherhood… I’d be lucky to survive toddlerhood with kids that still liked me and I reasonably liked them. I was so frustrated and offended all the time. I felt afraid of being out and about with my kids, especially around family members who might have a different parenting philosophy than me and then see my children act rudely toward me! Or anyone else for that matter. But things have changed for me so much over the last several weeks.

It is actually enjoyable being with my kids now. Sometimes my daughter snaps at me disrespectfully (sound like any children you know??) but even when others may be looking at me with shock expecting some heated response, I have been learning to let her have her feelings and let her hear about mine. Today, we were in the kitchen and she asked for something that I had to say no about. In defiance, she went and turned off the lights in the kitchen and gave me a hard stank eye! When asked to please turn the lights back on, she did not respond, and in fact said something rude instead.  I calmly told her, “I can hear you don’t like that the answer was no but I don’t appreciate being spoken to that way and it is not the way to get what you want.” I then asked if she wanted to help me with my cooking, and she completely melted into excitement and agreed to help! I said, “please turn the lights back on...” and she did, then we worked on dinner together, feeling reconnected and enjoying each other again. The thing was, she didn’t get what she had initially been offended about. I didn’t cave in my boundaries. AND she was willing to turn the lights back on, I just had to find a better way to motivate her. No one likes being commanded to do things, and submission works so much better when it is a choice made out of love and mutual respect. I realize not everyone thinks children are capable of this, but when you give them credit as fully human, just not fully grown up, you can see that they are capable of probably a thousand times more than we as a society tend to believe.

The fact is, I am a different person now that I have taken responsibility for all the changes I NEEDED to have in my life. For my family, it is not an option to just trust our kids to an institution like daycare or even an MDO program. It’s just not for us for many reasons. So my working a “regular job” is also not really an option. But the demands of motherhood and business are too high for me to try to manage it all alone, believe me, I have been trying! Something was always slipping through the cracks and while my husband never once has made me feel badly, nor has he shown anything but genuine empathy, the stuff falling through the cracks was affecting everything. I know the sweet poem about how the laundry and dishes can wait because little kids won’t keep… except eventually someone needs a clean spoon and clean underwear! INCLUDING those sweet little kids that are growing up before my very eyes! At some point life DEMANDS a degree of balance, but getting to the point of constantly just waiting until that DEMAND is placed on me is STRESSFUL. Eventually, you come to a point of living from fire to fire… constantly a little bit of drama to deal with because everything is ever sliding into the “it can wait” category…  but it doesn’t HAVE to be that way!

So for my family, a mother’s helper has been salvation. Literally. I feel like our home is showing a night and day difference. I am a completely different person because I am not juggling all the balls and dropping them all anymore. I have let some go so that someone else can help me and it is making an immense difference in my mental and emotional well-being. I no longer feel guilty for any action I take because doing the dishes meant leaving the kids’ sides and they might start fighting, or because of the same issue with cooking, or because staying by the kids’ sides meant the house had to stay in shambles… I don’t manage everything anymore. 

It has allowed me to stop taking all my childrens’ behaviors as personal reflections on me as a person. I can now see them for what they are- my children’s struggle, my children’s need that should be met. Not my fundamentally flawed self somehow making itself known through the actions of my sleepy, hangry toddler. It has allowed me to take steps back and examine my gut responses to behaviors instead of being trapped in reaction mode with my kids. AND WOOOOWWWW…. what a new world that is creating! God has used this season to surface so many root issues with me and help me deal with them, and it doesn’t take long to see change when I submit things to God! There have been issues that have resulted in overnight changes from me just because I asked God to show me a better way and he did. 

I am not saying I don’t still struggle sometimes, but things ARE so much better. My outlook, my expectation, even my children’s expectations on me… everything has been SO. MUCH. BETTER. So I guess I want to encourage you that if you are struggling and you know what you need is more help, find a way. Get that help. Don’t let anything, and I do mean ANYTHING, be the reason you don’t get help of some kind. I am the type of person who takes all my thoughts to a logical/ dramatic conclusion, so bear with me when I say: You don’t want to be the mom on the news for doing something horrific. You may think you would NEVER… but so did they. And being sleep deprived and in a constant state of stress (read fight or flight mode) IS a breeding ground for mental illness. And the problem with mental illness is that it is easy to miss… so don’t let it take you. Don’t let the little incessant feelings of losing your mind become part of your normal. IT’S NOT NORMAL. But no one can meet your needs if you don’t make them known. Some of us have to demand our needs be met, others simply request it, but by no means should you allow your needs to be dismissed and suffer in silence. Women ARE powerful, but we are not meant to do it all alone. So please don’t.