I’ve been catching up on all that’s going on with you. I noticed that you felt so liberated after formulating your “Screw It” philosophy. Your first few attempts at it were surprisingly successful as far as redirecting the kids – and you noticed right away that you weren’t engulfed in flames of over-analysis, guilt, and fear of making the wrong decision. You thought, “This is awesome! Why didn’t I do this years ago???”
But then… a day or two passed. You re-read your last post and felt slightly horrified – that you had put it out into the world that you were going to parent in such a flippant way. You wondered what your blog readers would think of this mother who talks about just saying “Screw it” when she addresses issues with her kids. You were pretty sure that some would think this was an entirely irresponsible way to parent.
Your committee started making noise. Murmurs and rumblings. Not a full scale attack yet, but definitely warming up.
You started to slip into old habits of ruminating and obsessing. The self-doubt crept back in and you found yourself wondering whether you’ve been too harsh, or whether you should have taken more time to handle a situation.
You worry. Above all else, you worry.
But here’s the thing, Self – your kids are fine. In fact, their behavior seems to be a bit more responsible since you’ve taken the new approach. Like wild animals, kids can smell fear and uncertainty – and they use that to their advantage. They know when your mind is going around and around trying to figure out the right thing to do. They can recognize when the swirling happens, and it gives them the opportunity to deflect responsibility from them to you. This certainly isn’t what you want to be teaching them – and your Screw It approach is correcting some of that.
Just as when you’re making any change, there will be times when you fall back into old patterns. There will also be times when you realize that your previous approach is appropriate. Things in life and parenting are never one-size-fits-all – despite all of your attempts to make that true.
I know you’re starting to freak out that you’re messing all of this up again. I know you’re very unclear about the difference between being responsible for your kids’ emotional health, and being responsible for their feelings. I know that you just want to have it all figured out – with a flowchart and a spreadsheet and a guarantee for success. I also know that rationally you understand that this isn’t how life works.
So for now, I just need you to relax. Breathe. Get out of your head a bit and look around you. I really think your Screw It experiment will be better for both you and the kids – so keep working on it when you can. But there’s no standard to meet or perfect score to attain. Just try to keep doing what feels right to you – in your gut, not after stewing over something in your head for 10 minutes. There will be plenty of things that will require that kind of heavy lifting, but a lot of the daily crap with the kids doesn’t fall into that category. Try to remember that.
Mostly I just want you to take it easy on yourself. You’ve covered so much ground in the past year or so in terms of your own emotional health. And part of what you’ve learned is that you need to have compassion – for yourself. Keep that in mind as you work on different ways of parenting the kids.
And don’t forget to look at the kids, too – to really see them. For who they are, and for who they’re becoming. Pay attention to the little signs from them that they feel loved and valued. If you’re looking for a parenting report card, that’s it – and I’d say that your three little people are pretty phenomenal. Nice work, Self.
I don’t mean to make you cry. I understand that the tears come from being afraid that you’re ruining the kids, but I think there’s more to it. A lot of those tears come from the Little Kid You, who desperately wanted to feel truly loved and treasured – for who you are, not who your parents wanted you to be. I can’t change your parents to help you heal those wounds with them. But I’d like to think that I can remind the Adult You that you are loved and treasured – even on your worst day.
Now go get some sleep so that you’ll be ready for another day of kid summer craziness tomorrow. Remember that I love you always.