I am going to be real honest here. That’s the point of this blog, right? I have always been honest. Blunt, straight to the point and even rude. I was going to let you know what I thought about whatever it was we were talking about and I was also going to make my feelings so loud that you had to pay attention to them. As a young child, I was never a pleaser. I didn’t care who you were, I was going to tell you like it was, I was going to throw a tantrum every single day after my Dad picked me up all the way home because he wouldn’t stop for ice cream. I was going to roll my eyes at you in disagreement. I was going to tell you what I thought about your outfit. I was THAT kid. And guess what? I haven’t changed. You either love me or hate me. I was told this as a teenager by a friend (or enemy or frenemy, I can’t remember). It was likely due to the fact that I had a really good resting bitch face. I still do.
With age and brain development, I have learned how to soften my approach and hold off on my impulses, but for the most part, I am still brutally honest. Obviously, as a therapist I am able to balance my honesty with the support I give. A long term client recently called me “brutal.” We both laughed after and I took zero offense because, I believe, that part of the therapeutic process is confronting clients about thought patterns or actions they have that aren’t serving them well. I am an IMPERFECT therapist, but I am always my client’s advocate and # 1 fan.
So, what’s any of this got to do with me being an IMPERFECT Mama? A lot! You know people say that your children give the payback that you deserve from when you were a child? Well, it’s true in my case. I have two children (a 5 year old girl and a 3 year old boy). They are both handfuls. My daughter is strong. Strong willed, strong minded, spirited, whatever you’d like to call it. She has the stamina to argue and throw a tantrum that I’ve only seen once before (hint: I am married to that person). But, dang, she is so cute. Her smile lights up the room, her sense of humor is years ahead of her and her music taste is strong! My son is a bit easier. He was a super tough baby but a generally easy going toddler and big kid. When he is upset, you will know but we can get him back on track relatively easily (usually). And when both children are struggling, they make my husband and I want to hide in the bathroom all day with bottles of wine.
Before I had children, I didn’t understand why it was so hard for my clients (usually I was seeing or helping the Dad and/or Mom navigate parenting or manage his/her own emotions more healthily) to be calm or rational when their children were losing their minds. I’d go into their home and help problem solve whatever was going on and be so confused that the parents were so rattled by all of it. That confusion stopped immediately after I had my daughter. Day 1 of bringing our daughter home, I understood why the parents I work with were emotional, mad, sad, anxious, irritable, constantly exhausted and mean to their partners. All of it made sense. Pre-kids, I could empathize to a certain level. I could listen, support and help. I did. But now, I get it on a whole different level. I don’t just have the tools and empathy, I now have the experience.
A big reason I wanted to start this blog was to normalize parenting. The IMPERFECTION of it, the realness, the struggle, all of it. I am here to tell you that even with all of my experience, knowledge and tools I am also an IMPERFECT parent. Today would be a great example of this. My friend and her kids can attest to this. Within the first 5 minutes of beginning a hike at a nature center, both of my kids had stepped into a swampy puddle with their tennis shoes on. My daughter recovered quickly (which isn’t necessarily typical but very appreciated). My son, who was tired because he decided to get up too early, could not recover. He didn’t want his shoes wet even though he plays in water in his clothes almost daily and never cares. Today was the day he cared and of course we didn’t have any extra shoes or options. Initially, I validated his feelings. I told him that I understood that his shoes were wet and he didn’t want that. He still screamed. Then, I tried telling him we didn’t have any options and tried helping him understand that there wasn’t anything I could do for him. He still screamed. Like he really screamed at the top of his lungs. The kind of scream that simultaneously makes you want to run away and pretend that that’s not your child but also the kind of scream that makes you kinda proud that he feels confident and secure enough to just let it out and not give a crap. After that, I wanted to abort the mission. I said we would have to leave but my daughter really wanted to stay so we stayed. I then was the parent ignoring him, then carrying him, then telling him he had to walk (because he’s giant and my back hurt). I was trying to reason, then I carried him some more, ignored his crying more, told him to stop. It went on and on. I felt embarrassed and horrible for my friend and her 3 boys who had to listen to my son cry and scream at the top of his lungs for 75% of our hike. It was beyond annoying. I was never so happy to see a Dyson hand dryer in one of the buildings along the way. We finally got our acts together (mostly) just as it was time to leave.
As soon as we got home, I noticed a message from a Mom that I worked with years and years ago thanking me for helping her and her husband learn how to communicate with their daughter and that I normalized parenting for her way back then (even before I had children) when I said that the parents who look like they have it all together are the ones who usually have the most problems. It helped her change her perspective. She says she still thinks about that today. It was the perfect timing for me. A reminder that even I need. Parenting is IMPERFECT but it is all about our perspectives. That reminder from her, the reminder of the advice I had given her, helped me let go of any disappointment and embarrassment I had in my parenting that day. The reality is, our children are little humans. They have the same feelings we have but little to no coping skills or tools to manage them. Our job is to remain calm and sometimes we just need to wait it out and to care less about what others think about our children or our parenting. Surround yourself with true friends. Friends that know you are a good parent. Friends that give you grace or a laugh or a glass of wine when your child is throwing a fit or being an a**hole. And stop worrying about what strangers think. Their opinion of you is none of your business. We act worse as parents when we feel we are being judged. Give yourself and your child grace. It’ll pass. It always does.