I’ve been struggling a lot with this whole issue of over-thinking my parenting. What I realized today is that I feel so inordinately responsible for my kids’ emotional health. On the one hand, of course this makes sense, and of course this is something that a good parent should do. But I think I take it to some ridiculous extreme such that I’m constantly doubting myself, assessing, reassessing – and acting irritable all the while because I can’t think straight.
Needless to say, this kills any potential for joy that I might – possibly, somehow, miraculously – find in parenting. Or in life in general, for that matter.
I had a frustrating session with my therapist today trying to talk through all of this stuff. My frustration stemmed from feeling like my therapist wasn’t really understanding what I was feeling. That’s unusual for me after a session. She usually gets it and she knows me well enough by now to recognize the places where I have difficulty (she can probably see them from a mile away!). But this time I felt like I kept trying to explain in different ways that I’m ultimately responsible for the kids’ emotional health, aren’t I? And so all of these little interactions are significant, aren’t they? After all, I didn’t get any of the emotional tools I needed growing up, so isn’t it up to me to figure them out for myself and figure out how to give those tools to the kids – all before my oldest hits 12 or 13 and doesn’t care any more about what Mom and Dad have to say?? Talk about pressure.
In my head, everything with my kids has such import. Everything is laden with layers of meaning, and debates over what messages I’m sending, and what messages I should be sending, and on and on and on. It’s dragging me down – to put it mildly. But the part that frustrated me with my therapist was that she couldn’t put into words how I could think about this differently – so that I could try to act differently. She couldn’t tell me that my actions didn’t affect the kids, or that they wouldn’t be affected by how I chose to handle all these things. Because guess who’s in her office every week struggling with exactly those things from a kid-grown-up perspective?
So there was a disconnect in my conversation with my therapist, and that frustrated me. And I probably don’t need to point out that if I can’t rationally follow the line of thinking, there’s no chance in hell that I’m going to be able to grasp it emotionally either. But I think what she was trying to get at toward the end of our session was that maybe I could try something radically different for a short while. Maybe I could kind of do a 180 – and try something totally different.
But this whole idea of trying something different sort of percolated in my head for the rest of the day. I think maybe I kind of get it now. And for me the approach might be best summarized by this eloquent statement:
Screw all of the debating. Screw all of the concerns over messages. Screw all of the over-analysis and obsessive thinking about whether I’m doing things exactly right.
Screw. It. All.
Instead, I’m going to go with my first reaction when it comes to the little things – and take out all of the angst with that stuff. It doesn’t mean being indulgent – but it means letting myself off the hook for grading my every response to the kids. I’m also going to try to remember that this is an experiment of sorts – it doesn’t mean that I have to do this for every interaction, or for the rest of my life. I’m simply (simply! ha!) going to try it on for size, just to see how it feels.
Example 1: The kids asked for a piece of candy this afternoon. My answer? Yes. THE END.
Example 2: My 7 year old E was complaining about a yellow notebook in the school supply bucket. She didn’t want to use it because it was so bright that it blinded her. (Yes, my kids are prone to exaggeration.) She whined and fussed. My response? We already have the yellow notebook, so you’ll have to use that one. You need three other notebooks anyway and you can pick out better colors for those. THE END.
Next time maybe the kids don’t get a piece of candy. Or maybe I have a different response to a yellow notebook type of situation. The most important part of those replies, for right now, is: THE END.
I feel oddly liberated tonight. There’s something freeing about just saying Screw It. There’s really nothing in my life that gets that kind of cavalier attitude. And the reality is that I’m generally very rational, and fairly reasonable, and thought-ful in my approaches – and I’m certainly not advocating throwing to the wind any of the fundamentals of our parenting. But maybe a lot of the small stuff can be handled by the Screw It philosophy.
So here goes. I’m heading off into uncharted territory. Wish me luck.