Monday, September 29, 2014

The fundamental fiction of my parenting

It is 2:30 in the afternoon. The house is quiet.  My oldest is at preschool, my youngest is asleep in my bed.

And I?  Am filled with dread.

Any minute now, I need to go wake up my toddler to pick .up her sister.  After a shortened nap for one and an afternoon of school for the other, they are likely to both be overtired.  The  crankiness is haunting me.  I can think of nothing else as my brain shifts into doing mode, fix it mode.

I wonder if stopping at the playground will make it better or worse.

This is the fundamental fiction that defines my life: I can control the moods of my children.

If I could just get the formula right.  More exercise.  No, more rest.  More choices.  More limits.  More something.

This approach would work very well if it weren't for one little problem.  These children?  Are people.

If a train is leaving for Meltdownville at 99 miles per hour, and someone else is driving it, why in the hell am I even bothering to do calculations?

Of course, the first. problem with this fiction is that it doesn't work.  There's no formula for the perfect day.  There's no way to ensure that my children are happy and pleasant and socially appropriate all the time.  And really, even if there were, would I really want those Stepford children in my life?

The other part of the problem, though, is this.  If I have the power to control their moods with my parenting, then I am RESPONSIBLE for all their worst moments.  Because clearly every misbehavior or tantrum is a sign that I am in some way inherently lacking in my role as parent.  That I'm doing it wrong and am therefore letting them down.

And this leads to shame, which is when I lose my temper.  It's why I could discipline a class of 20 high school kids (err, well, at least mostly), but I can't handle my two without spinning out of control.  Because when those kids weren't mine, it wasn't my fault.

But of course it isn't my fault anyway.  So how do I learn to create that distance?  To absolve myself of that power and responsibility?  To just see all the ups and downs and react to them appropriately without making grand judgments about the course and importance of my life?  To do all the right things without expecting those things. to "do anything" ... so that when they don't, I can do them all again tomorrow anyway instead of giving up and disappearing into my couch?

How do I begin to redefine my story?


  1. This is SO true. There are lots of things you can do to help shape a day, but even when you do everything "right," those darn little people are going to keep being people. There's no formula for my parenting except to "make it to bedtime." And this means that when bedtime goes badly? I am really, really frustrated trying to fix it!

  2. It's like you were in my head when you were writing this. I'm responsible for all of their moods. I know that my energy feeds off of theirs and vice versa. How to separate myself from them? I'm still struggling with that.

  3. It is hard, but we must teach them responsibility so we have to step back and bit and show them how and what to do, how to succeed, on their own.

  4. I really love this view. Because of course it's not our FAULT. But it's so easy to take the blame, shoulder the entire heavy weight, let it be a burden on all our parenting choices.