You think you’ve got your act together, then you have kids. You think you’re someone with a good handle on their emotions…then toddlers and teenagers alike disabuse you of this notion. Because that’s what kids do, they stress test us, prompting many dark knights of the soul. Can I do this? Who is this person I am becoming? Please don’t let me turn into my own parents…or those parents I’ve seen at the park.
In her wonderful book Sorrow and Bliss (which you can pick up at Painted Porch Bookshop!), Meg Mason has a great exchange between Ingrid, a parent of three and Martha, her single but struggling sister. “As soon as you’re a mother,” Ingrid explains in despair to her sister, “you realize every child was a baby five seconds ago, and how could anyone shout at a baby? But then you shout at your own and if you can do that, you must be a terrible person. Before you had kids, you got to think you were a good person, so then you secretly resent them for making you realize you’re a monster.”
It might feel that way, but you are not a monster. Let’s just put that out there. But you are struggling, as we all do. Because they push and prod and challenge us in unimaginable ways. By destroying some priceless heirloom…or trashing their room right after you cleaned it. By putting themselves in danger in that parking lot…by coming home high or escorted by the police.
Sometimes it’s anger, sometimes it’s fear, sometimes it’s sheer overwhelm–but we lose our temper, we get upset, we get anxious. That’s not because we’re monsters…quite the opposite. It’s because we care. That’s not an excuse, but it is an explanation. We just need to do better at remembering that they were a baby five seconds ago. They still are babies. They are babies in an insane, confusing, messed up world. They’re not doing this to you on purpose. It’s hard to be them too!
Please be kind. Be patient. Be accommodating. With them…but most of all with yourself.