STORYTELLING

“For Real Life! I Have Monsters in My Head!”

“Mommy, adults are so silly.  They say things like ‘monsters don’t exist…’ How would they know?  Just because they can’t see the monsters doesn’t mean they don’t exist in my head!  I have monsters in my head.  For real life!”

How insightful and how true!  How can I tell my son that monsters don’t exist, that they aren’t real when he’s the one who has to deal with the realities of said monster in this head.  The fear is real, the heart-pounding is real, the stress and the pain… it’s all real.

So what next?  The monster may not be a real, physical being that I can handcuff and throw in jail to make my son feel safer.  But… telling him that the monster is not real is not helpful.  What I need to do is to listen, lean in and help him deal with his truth.  What he needs from me is not judgment, but the guidance to figure out how to deal with his realities, his challenges.

So this is what we do:

  1. Identify the problem. There is a monster in my head. I’m too scared to fall asleep.
  2. Explore our options. Would it help to keep the lights on? the door open? Mommy lying next to me?
  3. Evaluate the pros and cons of the options. My brother can’t sleep with the lights on or the door open.  But he would love to have Mommy stay for a bit too.
  4. Pick a plan of action. Mommy will lie down with boys for a few minutes.
  5. Implement it.  Together. There will be days when Mommy can do this, but not every night.  Will we be okay on the nights Mommy can’t do this?
  6. Assess the outcome. This seems to work…
  7. Apply any lessons. Even though it feels better when Mommy stays with us, we seem to be okay on the nights Mommy can’t do it.  Sometimes my brother has to compromise and allow the night light or the door to be open. 
  8. Celebrate the win! Hey, we can compromise and there may be more than one solution!
  9.  Show the love. Mommy loves you, no matter what, and we will figure it out, no matter what.

That last one seems to be super important to my monster-fearing little one.

PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS

I’m Proud of You, Mommy

This morning my 11-year old son comes to me and smiles in a weird (but positive) way.  He says, “You know, I’m really proud of you.  It’s not easy to NOT yell at kids – not a lot of parents can do that. And now we hardly have a day when you yell at us.”

I look back at him and reply, “I’ve worked really hard on that over the past few years.”

He hugs me, then leans back and looks me in the eyes as he maturely and confidently says “I know. I’m really proud of you. It’s not easy and I know I’m a really lucky kid. I love you!”

“I love you too, kiddo.” I kiss him and he goes back upstairs.

You bring tears to my eyes kid.  To be appreciated for something I’ve worked very hard on, that in our society gets no real recognition, means the absolute world to me.

If I were to be perfectly honest with myself, at times, being a yelly mommy felt somehow justifiable.  But… one day, when you about 3 feet tall, the look on your face, the fear in your eyes got me… it got through my anger, my frustrations, my fears, my insecurities, my beliefs about how to end up with a well behaved kid.

You made me question everything about the relationship a mother is supposed to have with her kids. It cut through the lack of sleep, the stress at work, the dissatisfaction I had with life in general… You made me realize in that moment that no one, especially an innocent child, deserves to be yelled at, even when it’s for “bad or naughty behaviour”.  From then on, I was determined to be the kind of mother you deserved to have.

I have good days, I have bad days.  I am human.  You’ve accepted me for who I am, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Thank you for being proud of me.  Thank you for telling me.  Thank you for seeing my efforts, appreciating me, and celebrating my accomplishments! I love you!

That was a 5-minute exchange, but it was profoundly nourishing.

FOCUS ON YOU, UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

Raging at Kids is Signal: Need Self Care!

For the first few years of my kids’ lives, I thought that yelling at them was my way of disciplining and teaching them. But over time, I came to notice that 1) I wasn’t consistent in what I yelled at, 2) I had some specific triggers, and 3) while some things might have made a little sense to yell about, other issues were way too small to be mad at. Lastly, the fear and pain in their eyes were wrong. I hurt and scared them! As their mother, the one person who loves them most in the entire world, the one person who would do anything at all to keep them safe… *I* was causing them pain and they feared me.

It got me thinking.

And it got me digging.

It got me working on this issue.

I’d like to say that I quickly came to the conclusion that I could fix this by never yelling at them ever again, but it’s not quite that easy. There are so many levels of this and it’s very hard work to sort things out. But ultimately, I have come to the conclusion that something wasn’t quite working. And, while I was doing the best that I could, something needed to change.

Uncontrollable rage is never about the children. It’s about us as parents. It’s about our own insecurities and fears. It’s about our lack of control and our past traumas. Rage is what we turn to when we feel like there’s nothing else we can do. It’s our way of throwing temper tantrums. The problem is that rage literally does nothing to solve the problem at hand. If anything, it only makes things worse in the long run. It damages the relationship we have with our kids; they lose trust in and respect for us.

Raging at our kids doesn’t make us terrible people. It just means that we don’t have enough energy, headspace, or wherewithal to skillfully deal with the challenge in front of us. We feel so helpless that we can only rage.

It’s really a signal to stop and breathe. It’s time to remember the bigger picture. It’s a moment to love yourself and your kids. Once you find your equilibrium, then you can reconnect and communicate. It doesn’t mean they didn’t deserve a scolding or discipline. It doesn’t mean they don’t still need your guidance. It’s doesn’t mean you can’t be mad about what they did (or didn’t do). It just means you need to make sure that you are responding appropriately and thoughtfully rather than reacting in a knee-jerk manner.

But… when was the last time you had enough sleep? When did you get lost doing something you loved to do? When did you put yourself first? When did you pamper yourself? When did you have alone time to regenerate and rebuild your resilience?

If your answer is “I don’t remember…” then give yourself a break. You are running on empty and none of us are at our best behaviour when we don’t take care of ourselves. And guess what? The most vulnerable people around us suffer when we run ourselves to the ground!

So, without judging yourself for that rage, will you join me in taking care of ourselves first so that we can be the best version of a parent for our kids?