See this lovely photo of my kids doing a little activity in their PJs? They’re so engaged. So focused. So happy. I look like a super mom! I felt like super mom!
Let me put this in context for you though. Immediately after this my daughter refused to get dressed and brush teeth, yelled at us, screamed at her dad. My son followed her lead and also refused, then hit me in the face when I tried to get him dressed, then hit his dad in the face when he tried to put on his shoes. I knew my daughter’s behavior was a request for extra connection — and I held her and carried her and hugged her and offered my presence through most of it.
But I’m not gonna lie — I resorted to threats to get some semblance of compliance from them. My patience ran out. I lost it. “I’m throwing away your candy.” Is what I said. And it’s not my modus operandi to threaten or bribe. At least until I myself become dysregulated…then I can’t be fully present or fully respectful. And no one wins. And everyone struggles. And in the end, the threat created more emotions and more extreme behavior and I truly regretted saying it. Both because it didn’t help me achieve my goal of getting out the door and because I could hear in her voice that it really upset her. It certainly wasn’t my goal to upset her.
We are very lucky to have other wonderful adults that care for our kids. After all the calamity, we took them to school/daycare to be with those adults. I could take a breath. Calm myself. And will most likely spend the remainder of the day listening to parenting podcasts. Maybe gather a few strategies that will help me stay with them and with myself through the next big struggle. And there will be a next one — of that, I can be certain.
I’m not totally sure what my point is here. Maybe I’m reminding you (and myself) to put all those beautiful charming photos of little humans being amazing in context. There is a good chance that meltdowns and big loud emotions led up to it or will follow shortly after the picture is snapped. And also…and I can say this now that my kids are elsewhere in a safe place — good. I welcome the next challenge. I’m glad little humans experience the breadth of emotions. It’s truly amazing (albeit hard) to see how fully they will let themselves feel. I still battle bottling up my emotions. I still feel shame when I’m upset. I still feel like tears are bad and anger is bad. I still want my own difficult emotions to be problems that I solve rather than data that I observe. But these little people — they just feel it. And when I’m looking at the forest and not stuck in one of the trees — I’m inspired and amazed at the level of absolute emotional freedom children have. We could all learn a lot from it — if we weren’t so busy being ashamed of it.
And maybe also — I want to say that it really takes a village. As cliché as that may be — it is very true. This morning would have been exponentially harder if they didn’t get a change of scenery and a changing of the guard. I’m listening to the podcast No One is Coming to Save Us (on the recommendation of @mrchazz ) and it is blowing my mind. We need help. In the United States we ALL — all the caregivers and guardians and parents— desperately need help. To help each other but also for policymakers and companies (because, capitalism 🙄) to start investing in child-rearing as a foundation of infrastructure (*citing the podcast here). Rather than some privilege that we only get if we can afford it.
I’ve had many other parents of older kids tell me that I’m “in the trenches.” Meaning that having two little humans under the age of 6 is likened to the trenches of warfare. Google the phrase “in the trenches” and here’s an image. (I feel I especially relate to the soldier that appears to be writing something down — no doubt writing an essay on the perils of parenthood.)
This. This is what we are saying it’s like to raise young children. And yet, do it alone, they say. Do it without support. Do it WELL without support. That is the expectation. Only, when the military is in the trenches, they have ample resources. When most American parents are in the trenches they have almost none. Priorities. But I’m not here to debate policy or argue over who does and who does not get support — or fight about what constitutes support. Because — I’m tired. I have help — lots of amazing help and I’m still tired. Because, it’s a battle.
So what I am here to say to American parents is — You are not alone. When you are struggling; when you are exhausted; when you feel like a failure; when you lose it — I see you. Many other amazing leaders and caregivers also see you. They make podcasts and write blogs and do research and lobby on your behalf. They give lectures and share resources and run non-profits in an effort to help you. Because in the trenches, we need all the help. I hope you’ll find what you need to raise your little human. I’m in it with you. Fighting the good fight – because it is the best fight. Because these little humans are worth every fight I have in me.