It’s been a hot minute since I sat down to write a blog post. I’ve been living that #momlife 24/7 this summer and wouldn’t you know kids just seem to want all of you all the time! So, the rest of my life took a backseat while I played on the beach with my two littles all summer. Now we are back to city living and starting to find routine again. Hallelujah!
As mentioned, we spent the greater part of the summer at the beach – and by beach, I mean Victoria Beach where both my and Jason’s families have summer cottages. (It’s actually where we first met each other about a million years ago!)
For so many years, basically since I’ve become a mom, I have wanted to have summers off so that I could move out to the lake with the kids and enjoy that VB life all summer long. Well folks, this was my summer. I had such high expectations of carefree beach days and glorious evenings watching sunsets while the kids played. And we did enjoy beach days and sunsets, but I also solo parented two very rambunxious kids for most of the summer and they didn’t receive my serene summer memo…
I’m sure from the outside looking in, anyone who saw my Instagram page probably thought I was living the dream. And don’t get me wrong, in so many ways I was, but there were also many moments where I felt driven to tears, where I completely lost myself in anger and frustration, where I made choices that I wish I could take back, and where I wished things were all just different then they were. (I touched on it in this post.)
In so many instances (and please don’t misunderstand this as me laying blame), Miles was at the centre of all the fire and fury. Let me just tell you, this kid came out of the womb with fire in his belly. He’s had big vocals since day one and so often he uses his voice to tell me how much he loves me or to ask the sweetest little four-year-old questions. But if you try to tell this kid not to do something or correct his behaviour – LOOK OUT! He’ll come at you (well, me actually), and he won’t back down.
Over the course of the summer it became exhausting putting out emotional fires every day. Until one night my mom sent me an article that touched on WHY a kid like Miles gets so upset and acts out. Miles is definitely a strong-willed child, a characteristic that could (and hopefully will) serve him well in life. Our problem is that we wind up having power struggles when he is behaving irrationally or doing something he’s not supposed to and I then try correct that behaviour. This is when things go sideways for us and tempers (his and mine) wind up flaring.
Essentially, the article (and I have ordered her book, too) tells parents how to help kids navigate their feelings so they can understand them instead of fighting or fleeing from them. Okay, so this is where things REALLY hit home for me. As a (now recovering) alcoholic, I spent years of my life fleeing from my feelings. Burying them with drugs and alcohol and “fun.” If it was difficult and painful, I wanted no part in it.
Here’s the clincher that we all know to be true: suffering is part of the human experience. It just is. There’s no escaping that we will suffer in life. So if I can teach my kids handle suffering as children and equip them with that life skill NOW, then maybe they won’t have to hide from it later. This doesn’t mean I MAKE them suffer but rather help them see why they are hurting and then guide them handle it in a healthy way.
What I have learned is that yelling doesn’t work with my kids. Shocker, right? Yelling is just an ineffective tool that does no good for anyone. Trouble is, it was my only lame-ass tool for a long time. Time-outs don’t do much good either and separating them from the rest of the family as a punishment just reinforces feelings that they are ‘bad.’ To turn the behaviour around, I need to understand and then help THEM understand why they are acting out.
This is particularly true for Miles because at four years old, he can’t really understand without some help why he is behaving the way he is. If we can start to talk through what heppened immediately prior to whatever ‘incident’ we are dealing with at the time then things usually start to come together. Usually he’s feeling left out from something or isn’t getting his way on an issue and doesn’t understand why. So, we have made some inroads in this area and this new approach really seems to be helping. Turns out, being a parent can also help you be a better person. (And here I thought I was a good person all along!)
I am by NO MEANS a parenting expert and have no claims on what is right for anyone else’s family. I can barely figure out my own! (<– Truest statement I’ve ever written.) I am merely in this place because I basically felt like a failure as a parent for a good chunk of the summer and then I read this article and something started to click. I have yet to start the book but am looking forward to more nuggets of parenting wisdom.
I may not be able to ease all their suffering in life but maybe I can help them grow into people who are okay feeling their feelings. That is my hope, anyway…
What kind of parenting tools have you found useful? I’d love to hear – leave a comment below!