I have been writing primarily about my relationship with a partner. I want to share my thoughts, my experiences regarding the most wonderful, exhausting, happy, challenging, and rewarding relationships of my life. It’s the ones I have with my three children.
I always wanted to be a parent. I was married for 7 years before we planned and tried for our first child. I was so excited! I didn’t like being pregnant. I was sick for a large part of it. Tired most of the time and I didn’t care for the changes in my body. I did love knowing these little creatures were growing inside of me though and I so looked forward to their arrivals.
My son entered this world healthy, beautiful and so loved. I remember feeling so afraid to take him home from the hospital. I honestly thought the hospital staff had lost their minds trusting me with this baby. When we brought him home we just looked and him and each other and I thought, “What do I do now?” Thankfully babies are resilient and he survived those early years of me learning how to care for a baby.
I had experience, had cared for my younger siblings, but there was something different about caring for my own children. I guess feeling there was no safety net, no backup. I needed to figure out how I wanted to raise this child, who I wanted to be in his life. I definitely wanted to bring some of the lessons I had learned from my upbringing and certainly wanted to change other experiences my parents had imparted. I wanted to be better. I think that’s a common thought when we look at where we have come from. “I’ll do it different. I won’t make those mistakes”. And some mistakes I copied and I have made a bunch of brand new ones. I wanted to be my best for each of them. Listen to what they needed as individuals. Sometimes I was listening better than at other times. There has been a huge learning curve.
This little guy started this path, this walk in life, and this parenting experience, which has provided so many opportunities to grow and change. I often feel the daily, yearly, and let me be honest; sometimes the moment-to-moment experience of parenting has felt like a thrilling roller coaster ride and scary haunted house combination. Turning corners not knowing what to expect combined with the exhilarating twists and turns.
It’s a very fortunate thing that a child’s love is so forgiving. I have needed to face some of my less attractive personality traits and have chosen to be better, do better. One in particular is selfishness. My history had moments where I accepted responsibility for people and situations well before I was old enough to really know what I was doing. This developed for me some baggage, as we so commonly call it these days. My children have allowed me to see this side of me that has been very selfish in nature in regard to them. I said no or passed on things when I wish I had said yes. It took me time to see my flaw, accept being tired and say yes to them anyway. It is the kind of parent I want to be and it is what they deserve.
Another example of a change I needed to face was my anger/frustration when my children were younger, especially my daughter, and how I validated spanking as a disciplinary tool. I am speaking from where I have walked and needed to change, not on the moral issue of spanking or not spanking. I realized I was hitting my child when I was frustrated or angry because they were not acting in the way I needed/wanted them to act. I had to face my demons of feeling as though I had no control, which in reality I didn’t, and find another way to discipline my daughter in particular.
I had to implement a more responsible and respectful tactic to her outbursts and “sass”, instead of meeting it with a mirrored response. I found I sometimes needed to walk away, and it didn’t represent a win/loss situation between the two of us. We both won because the situation was immediately diffused and halted. I also recognized that my daughter needed to be heard, and her frustration was not with me, it was with life. If I could ask her to please not be disrespectful and that I was willing to listen, eventually she came around, every time. I needed to be the parent. DUH, right?? This came from my daughter in particular, to present me with the opportunity to see this aspect of myself, and I was able to choose something different and more effective for the two of us. It ultimately came down to me really seeing her, her needs and not wanting her to be alone with any of it.
Another wonderful challenge has been to adjust my parenting to each individual child. I like a plan. It offers me a sense of control, consistency, organization and direction. (Listen, I’m a work in progress, give me a break). I have needed to become much more flexible. I have needed to understand that each of these individuals are exactly that, an INDIVIDUALS. Their rhythms, sleep habits, personalities, needs, desires, dreams, thoughts are very different and deserve and need to be responded to differently. This is a challenge! Like I said I like a plan. “You’re angry, here’s what we are going to do”. NO! One way to parent all my kids was not going to work. It has pushed me to learn new tactics, communication styles, new activities, new thoughts, new everything. As long as I was willing to change, there were opportunities to learn. And sadly for them, but lucky for their future mental health therapists, I wasn’t always willing. I have had to look at my level of commitment, honestly, and I have had to face I have failed my children, often. In my failures though, I have had the opportunity to make a different decision. To once again look at my behaviors honestly, and choose to learn and change. And truly, isn’t that what any relationship provides us? If we are willing to see our shortcomings and learn how to do it differently for those we care about, opportunities for us to change are infinite.
I have needed to make choices on an ongoing basis about who I have wanted to be as a parent.
The love of a child is so great and needs to be cherished. I am blessed to have these relationships in my life. They have loved me despite my flaws, shared with me, challenged me and continue to amaze me with their kind hearts and the wisdom they carry. Hopefully I can take a little credit.