Parenting frustration is real and it’s here to stay. We can only work on how we cope with it. How many times have you gotten crazy frustrated with your kids lately? Have they asked the same question incessantly? Have they pushed your buttons one too many times? Are they poking and prodding endlessly about the same topic? Do you wonder how they forgot your instructions from 30 seconds before?
It’s a common story and a huge point of frustration in parenting, especially of small children. You are not alone! We love our kids, even at their most annoying. We are incredibly busy with work and home lives and just trying to get through the day unscathed can seem like a monumental task.
Putting all that aside for a moment, take a little journey with me. I’d say “close your eyes” but that would be problematic. Imagine for a few minutes, that you’re on vacation in a totally unfamiliar country where you don’t speak the language. You somehow got separated from the people you’re traveling with and find yourself in a part of the city you’ve never been before. It is amazing and beautiful and you are completely enamored. Walking onward, you try to keep your eyes open for something familiar as you explore, hoping to spot a restaurant or store where you could ask for a phone. Everything from the customs, the food, the clothing, the buildings are completely unfamiliar and you don’t even know where to begin. Hunger begins to make itself known as you walk onward, night is falling. Do you have that anxious feeling creeping into your belly? A stranger approaches and starts speaking rapidly to you, seemingly alarmed and anxious, gesticulating in an incomprehensible fashion. Looking around for assistance, you see only disapproving and unfriendly stares. You attempt to speak calmly and mime that you are lost and need help. But your every effort is met with more disapproval and confusion. You attempt all familiar ways to communicate but are rebuffed at every turn. Clearly, your efforts to be appeasing are only adding to the stranger’s negative view of you. That anxious feeling is quickly mounting into panic as the stranger begins to get angry and moves toward you. How do you feel now? Are you thinking clearly?
“If I could wish for one thing for my children, it’s patience.” – Tweet This!
Ok, I get that this is an extreme example but is it so different from how young children see the world? They are bombarded from all sides with new information, rules, experiences, and sensations that they are attempting to process. Even when they begin to find understanding, inevitably, the circumstances change or a new element forces them back to the beginning. As they grow and learn, we are imposing new layers of rules and expectations upon them. We are by nature, contrary and inconsistent. It stands to reason that we don’t always correct, encourage or guide our children in the exact same way every time. There are also hugely varied circumstances that can affect our interactions with our children, yet we often expect them to read between the lines or understand us to an exacting degree. The cues and expressions we rely upon as adults to assess a situation are completely foreign to our children. They haven’t yet built up their knowledge bank of clues that they can draw upon.
Can you think of a time when you were in unfamiliar territory and suddenly grasped something that made sense? What was your first instinct? Most likely, it was to repeat that action over and over and over again until something new clicked. Then we repeat the next action ad nauseum until we find something else that works. This should some incredibly familiar if you think about it in relation to your children’s actions.
There is no miracle method or proven strategy for moving this process along and creating better listeners who don’t annoy us so often. What we are witnessing is a miracle of self discovery and self worth. We are instrumental in shaping their view of this world and while completely overwhelming, that’s an awesome responsibility. I mean awesome in its true sense, not the overused off-hand way we usually apply it. These kids are getting up every day with a huge sense of optimism, hope, love and energy that they are just aching to send into the world. They fail thousands of times, every day. With barely a blink, they get back up ready to try another thousand times. Their capacity for learning is incredible and they are using every second of their existence to make an impression on their surrounding and the people around them.
“Children fail thousands of times, every day. With barely a blink, they get back up ready to try another thousand times.” Tweet This!
So while parents are frustrated and exhausted by the world in all its mundanity, I challenge you to try to walk a minute in your child’s shoes. Take even a few seconds to look at the world in wonder and awe. Remember that they’re still developing their bearings on EVERYTHING and while they are certainly learning to manipulate us, it doesn’t often come from a place of deliberate disobedience. More often than not, they’re simply looking for love, reassurance and structure. They want to know the rules to this game we’re all playing and they want to excel at it! I realize this is an idealistic expectation, but even if we can put this in action once in a day that’s a huge accomplishment! More often than not, we’ll still find ourselves in that place of frustration but it is worth the effort to invest in ourselves and in our children.
If I could wish for one thing for my children, it’s patience. Modern life has this way of pushing us along at a furious pace and our gut reaction is to race along without question. But what are we rushing toward? I see people all around me from various walks of life, varying ages and backgrounds. Is any one group happier than the next? Does any one person have all the answers? The more I learn and understand, the more I am certain that what matters most is today. THIS moment in time. THIS experience. I have friends of all income brackets with the exact same insecurities everyone else has. I see baby boomers FINALLY getting to retire and then wondering, what now? Their health isn’t the best or they’re so stuck in “work” mode that they can’t or won’t relearn how to just live and enjoy being present.
This is nothing new or revolutionary. Many others have explained this more eloquently and more powerfully than I can. Yet, I think it too important to not repeat from my own perspective in hopes that it might strike a chord with someone. Even one person. Our children are embracing this very concept even as they race ahead into the school years, the teen years and soon adulthood. If we can’t enjoy life as much as possible in the now, then what’s the point?
“Find joy in the details.” – Tweet This!
Life is made to be lived, in all its mundane and boring detail. Find joy in the details.
Being a parent is incredibly demanding work and our self worth is irrevocably tied to our measure of “success”. Success is a completely arbitrary measure! From the outside looking in, it’s so easy to think that someone “has it all together” or somehow manages to “do it all”. The simple truth though, is that most of us don’t even come close to this ideal…and that’s OK!
Excelling in one area, means that many other areas are taking a back seat. That mom who shows up with the beautifully made cupcakes and treats for every birthday or school event? Her mother is ailing and she bakes and crafts to keep her brain from considering the possibility of loss. That dad who volunteers for every work project and always seems one step ahead? Well, he is one step away from foreclosure and never makes it to his daughter’s soccer games. It is so easy to see a snapshot of someone’s life and believe that it encapsulates everything about them. However, it’s the story behind the smallest moments that are really worth learning about. There is no-one who “has it all”.
Rich or poor, sad or happy, engaging or shy, life of the party or withdrawn. These are all just small facets of who we are in any given moment. With the explosion of social media and the ease of communication, one would hope we would become more connected. Yet it seems that more than ever our society causes us to withdraw from one another and live our lives in isolation.
Despite the isolation, we are constantly competing with ourselves and others to chase an indiscernible goal post. The the constant urge to be better, richer, happier drives us to live frantically. It has become so commonplace that we rarely stop to ask why. Are there studies showing that our kids will be smarter if they have four activities a week plus music lessons? Will they lead more fulfilling lives because they’re always chasing the next best thing rather than enjoying life’s simple moments?
I see this every day when I’m interacting with my children. Often, I’ll find myself racing around the house, scrambling to get ready with three children in tow so we can all get to school and work on time. Inevitably, one or all of them will want something from me at the exact wrong moment and I’ll snap. Seconds later, it all becomes clear and I quickly understand they were trying to help in their own way. In the moment I was too frazzled and distracted to pay attention. The moment might be gone, but I still try to take the time later to show them that I appreciated their effort. I make a million mistakes a day and that will never change. But I will always strive to find meaning in those mistakes so that I can keep moving forward.
Are there days when you want to crawl back into bed and ignore the world? Do you have days when you wonder how the heck you got here? Has your self worth plummeted into a dark abyss? Do you have a list a mile long of all the things you feel you need to do, or need to learn? All those thoughts swirling around in your head? Yeah, I’ve got them too.
Often it feels paralyzing, like there’s no way forward.
Here are a few ways to take that first step:
1. No one is perfect. Everyone you think is acing it? They’ve got their own problems. Try to give yourself and others a bit of grace. Take a second to connect with someone.
2. What’s the hurdle immediately in front of you? What’s the one thing you can do RIGHT NOW to make it better? Then find the next thing, and the next.
3. Stand back and look at the big picture, remember how much worse things were a month, a week, a minute ago? You’ve got this.
4. REMEMBER! Somebody loves you madly, deeply, unconditionally.
5. Be strong, think strong and nothing will hold you back.
Take the time you need to wallow, take the time you need to breakdown, take the time you need to cry. Then get back up and do it all again.
Making the choice to keep moving and find a better way? Those are the moments that will lead to unexpected joy. Find the joy.
Ever gotten really peeved at work and managed a few cutting remarks that left you feeling vindicated? Have you had a moment when you screamed at your spouse/parent/sibling/friend/child and suddenly realized you weren’t alone in the parking lot? Had that awful feeling in your gut a few hours later as you replayed the scene in your head? Did you spend the night squirming in embarrassment wondering how you could show your face in public ever again?
Well, there’s nothing quite like having your worst moments acted out for you, out loud and in person…by your four-year-old.
There are few things I’ve experienced that are quite so humbling as having children. Not only do you deal with the awe, the joy, the humiliations and the frustrations that make being a first-time parent incredibly overwhelming. You also experience the gut-wrenching shame spiral that ensues when you witness your darling child trying on all your snippy remarks and exhaustion fueled set-downs.
We all try to be good role models and decent human beings, sure. But in the privacy of your own home, you know you’re far from the pillar of humankind that you encourage your children to be. Sometimes, they are better role models than we could ever be. You can admit it, this is a safe zone. No judgements here.
We’ve been dealing with some adjustment problems with our two-year-old (since the addition of baby #3) and have been spending a lot of time trying to keep our little chaos bubble from spinning out of control. Once we manage one hurdle, another gauntlet is thrown into our paths and we lug our exhausted bodies out of the ditch and trudge ever onward. There’s nothing quite like having notes sent home about your toddler’s behavior in daycare week after week. We’ve moved from shoving other kids, to tackling them, to punching them in the nose (self confessed), to screaming “NO!” all. the. time. Our darling girl?! Never…
That’s not to say she’s not sweet and loving and everything nice. Just don’t stand in her way, she’s got strong opinions and is not afraid to show them. I know I’ll appreciate her strength and conviction one day, when she’s 30. Maybe.
The crux of the matter is that we’re all learning, as individuals, as a family unit and as a community. It’s painful, it’s frustrating as all get out and it’s incredibly humbling. In the moment, it feels agonizing. With a little perspective, it starts to resemble growth and gosh darnit, maybe even feels a little rewarding.
It’s empowering to know that we are a work in progress. We are NOT perfect role models. We are not finished. We are aspiring to be something better, we are inspiring these little minds (though not always in the best ways, if we’re honest), and we are growing with each and every awkward, imperfect step.
Failure is not an option, it’s an inevitability. It may not be pretty or Pinterest worthy, but it’s life and it has meaning and it helps us to be better people. Own it.
It’s crazy how quickly these little babes grow and with them, our expectations. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to see the bigger picture. Sleepless nights, tantrums, incessant questions, disregard for rules, is there a moment that isn’t challenging? Think positive? No way!
I often hear people bemoaning the struggles of this or that stage and wishing of speedy delivery to the next and we are certainly guilty if this too! I don’t believe these complaints represent our overall parental well-being or happiness and we all need to share our frustrations. Yet, I can’t help but feel that it’s too easy to focus on the negative aspects of our current struggle and forget all the amazing and wonderful things that happen each day. Our brains are hard wired to focus on the negatives and the positives are all too easily glossed over and forgotten.
My mission these days is to actively remember all the great things that happen each day. We have technology at our fingertips, so use it! I have a terrible memory so I need all the help I can get. Snap a picture, capture a quick video, jot down a note, save a piece of artwork or some token from a shared activity…the list goes on. I’m making it a point to do this and the process helps me focus on the good stuff! It doesn’t have to be anything monumental or earth shattering, just something that makes you smile. Let’s try a little harder to be grateful for the amazing family we are building (despite it’s many flaws)!
It’s frightening how quickly time passes. It seems like only last week that Lena was still brand new and yet I can’t imagine life without Maggie.
These were all taken on my aunt and uncle’s porch. Same porch, different hammock, same two bottom teeth! Why does Maggie look so much bigger even though she’s almost three months younger?
Almost two years ago…and yesterday.
And the little one….finally growing some hair.