No matter how we become parents, by choice or unexpectedly, parenting is a life changing and continuous journey. Parenting is tough!
Although tips, guidance, and confirmation that we are doing a good job can help ease the challenges, parents have to parent day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute. And many of us do not have a partner, friends, or family to turn to for support.
Last week was rough. My almost three year old had some really big feelings and I wasn’t in the mood to support her. I was having some big feelings of my own. She tugged on my arm and pulled me in the direction she wanted me to go. I tried to ignore her at first, but that didn’t work, so I yanked my arm away. Hard.
“Not now!” I snapped.
She proceeded to run away from me, crying, and told my husband, “Mommy hurt my feelings” as she sobbed loudly. She was seriously sad. Her feelings were hurt.
These moments don’t make me proud, and they can send my mind machine spiraling into an endless cycle of guilt until I say these three words: I am human.
I can reflect on that moment now and see what happened pretty clearly. I was overwhelmed with a task that, in my mind, needed to get done right away. Instead of getting down on my daughter’s eye level and explaining to her that I needed a few minutes, or setting a timer to help the time pass in a concrete way, I raised my voice and pushed her away. Literally and figuratively.
Think back to your childhood and how your parents interacted with you. Can you remember a certain tone, look, or words that hurt you? These memories are much more accessible after the birth of my daughter. And honestly, they still hurt!
Changing destructive patterns from our own childhoods isn’t easy. It starts with compassion towards oneself and the realization that we can do better. We will do better. Although we are bound to make mistakes, we can continuously strive to parent with heart.
Parenting with heart can start with a simple apology.
When I found H in her room, I could tell she needed space. She doesn’t like to be touched when she is really upset. So I sat in the rocking chair and opened my arms.
“H, do you want a hug?” I asked. She nodded her head and slowly came towards me.
As I embraced her in my arms and took a deep breath, the power of connection filtered through my body. I continued to breath, deeply and slowly.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t have yelled. Mommy loves you and sometimes I get big feelings, too. I’m sorry and I’ll try to do better.”
After a few moments we locked eyes and she perked up, excited to tell me about something on her mind.
Next time you have big feelings, pay attention to how you interact with your child. If you recognize an old pattern emerging, make note of it in your mind or on paper. We can bury those old patterns from our childhoods.
Instead of shutting down, let’s own up when we make a mistake. Embrace vulnerability. Apologize and show your child that you are human.
We can raise our children with love, compassion, and open-heartedness. And often, that starts with admitting we are not perfect by apologizing.