Yesterday was a challenging day. Upon reflection it always becomes pretty obvious why. I can track it back to starting with me deciding to stay up WAY past my usual bedtime these days.. 2am to be exact – a much bigger deal as a mom. Something that I know doesn’t do me any favors the following day because when I’m that tired my immune system is weakened and my health issues become heightened – triggering all sorts of anxious behavior amongst other things. Plus those tiny humans of mine that I must care for – well they still wake up bright and early regardless. My 18-month old Clary nurses through the night still, so I essentially haven’t slept through the night in nearly 4 years. Long enough that it’s my “normal”. So going to bed at 2am means I’m going to sleep even less since I’ll most likely be waking right back up to nurse my little.
I mean 2am used to be regular for me prior to motherhood. My past involved me still dancing at the bar at 2am with no bedtime in sight, or my college days where I just mostly didn’t sleep at all because I was a master procrastinator when it came to “homework”. In hindsight I’m really not sure how I functioned some days, considering now I’m exhausted by 8pm. But nowadays as a mother, I’m pretty well useless without a somewhat decent sleep and every night I stay up I deeply deeply regret it the next day, and sadly everyone else usually feels that way too.
So here’s how my day went: I’m tired and feeling just overall snippy all morning. Not taking responsibility for my own emotions whatsoever and feeling sorry for myself. Both of my children are totally feeding off my energy and acting out of their minds and ornery all day (Gosh. how dare they, right?…) My littlest one – Clary – is choosing this day specifically to not want to go to sleep for her nap and I can feel myself getting more and more frustrated with her as I’m just pleading in my mind that she just calm down because all I want is a break! Usually nursing her to sleep does the trick every time but of course, this day was an exception, the day where I would’ve paid someone so I could nap. So I’m talking to her trying to get her to relax and finding myself angry now, lost in my own ego, as I know my energy had to be escalating her wildness. But I was stubbornly still trying to force a nap.
I actually begin to feel like my insides are starting to boil, because I am so tired and not feeling well and just want a BREAK from responsibility at that moment. I don’t want to wait another hour or so for her to be ready for nap so I’m trying to force it to happen (which ANY mom knows that really doesn’t go over well in most cases). I’m not a cry-it-out type of person but here I am laying beside her and essentially doing that, and with the worst energy radiating from me. I’m also trying to make an excuse for myself in my own head – even though I hate every bit of the entire situation we’re in at the moment. I’m on the verge of tears, as she’s screaming at me and flailing all around because she doesn’t want to lay down with me. We live in a container house and have our bed 4ft up in a huge bunk. During the chaos – the flailing and crying and overall frustration – I hear my 3.5 year old Maxsen come up the ladder saying “Mommy? Mommy.” GREAT, now him too! And I become automatically enraged at him, that he’s now probably coming up to ask for something but knowing he’s going to get her more worked up and make it worse and draw this out even longer. I immediately feel the urge to turn and snap at him because now I’ve just gotten myself so low that my energy is just toxic, plus he knows it’s important that he stays quiet while sissy goes down for nap I thought, so my ego has me ticked off with him. Well here I turn to look at him, ready to use my words aggressively during a very low moment in my parenting, and the image I see is my sweet thoughtful boy – holding Clary’s baby doll – standing at the edge of the bed patiently. I instantly realized the actual reason he was there, and my walls came crashing down.
Tears now rolling down my face instantly. That was it. Wake up call.
How did I become so lost in my own turmoil that I totally forgot my empathy for my innocent children? Children who are merely reacting to my field of energy.
This sweet sweet boy of ours though, I am SO glad I looked at him first and didn’t just assume and yell at him, something I would’ve done if I was a parent years ago. If I could be grateful for one thing I did right that day, it was that. Every bit of my being relaxed once I saw his adorable arm holding her baby doll as he stood at the top of the ladder. I immediately realized that he surely had to have been feeling all of the stress and desperation from both Clary and I from the other room (Maxsen is extremely empathic), and in his mind his way of helping us solve the problem was to bring his sissy her doll to help her sleep. My heart melted, and I looked at Clary – her adorable squishy little face staring back at me now calmer – and I realized the everything in my mind had changed in that moment. I remembered what kind of parent I truly am and I was not reflecting that whatsoever.
The ego is STRONG. It’s hard to push through sometimes. I could’ve easily crushed his spirit in a heart beat. I could’ve not even looked and just snapped at him verbally to go away and carried on with the frustrating attempt to force Clary to nap. I could’ve seen his effort and stubbornly told him “no! not right now! She doesn’t need the doll”. But I took myself out of what was happening instead, immediately, realizing that everything we experienced that day, was actually determined by me! I admit to myself I was wrong. And that has been revolutionary for me as a parent and as a human being in general.
I’m the one that brought my energy into their space. They were essentially just mirroring my emotions. Instead of removing myself from my own ego and seeing that I was the problem, I kept playing the victim and wanting to take it out on them for their behavior. They were the “naughty” ones in my head that day. But nobody was there to call me out on my own ridiculous behavior, and I was just working with a suppressed system from lack of sleep so I wasn’t even helping myself. Thankfully my awareness was sitting there in my subconscious anyway and I just needed something (Maxsen) to bring it to my attention in some way.
I thanked Maxsen for being so incredibly sweet and thoughtful towards his little sister, my heart felt lighter immediately. I gave Clary the doll, which she doesn’t ever sleep with normally but she did that day, and I snuggled her right up – feeling all of my guilt – while sending her all of my love. Surprisingly very soon after she fell right asleep.. with no more crying or flailing.
Essentially, all it took was adjusting my perspective. Thankfully, seeing my children in their TRUE light again (Maxsen in his attentive and thoughtful moment and the true wild and playful spirit of my daughter who just wanted to keep exploring life that day) snapped me out of it and I deflated all of my frustrations by calming my own mind finally and restoring my own empathy for my children.
They didn’t choose to stay up late. I did. They don’t quite understand the implications of me doing just that. Nor should it be an excuse ultimately, I am the one responsible for myself no matter how much sleep I get. Clary wasn’t ready for nap and instead of following her cues like I usually do, I tried to force her down because of my own desires. She didn’t NEED to nap right then and she wasn’t ready either, but I wouldn’t allow myself to accept that. I almost flipped out on Maxsen, who was basically my savior for that day, because I just assumed he was acting disobedient. My ego was my worst enemy the entire day.
Children teach you SO much. You have to be open though, or it’ll never come through. My kids push so much growth in me. We aren’t perfect, and so many of us have been through our own deep struggles through our childhood but I’ve come to learn as a mother that the places that I need the most growth, are always brought to my attention through my children.
Swearing, fear, aggression, anger – my kids mirror all of this to us in their own ways. They unknowingly point out all of our areas where we need growth as parents. The hardest part is to actually be able to let go of your ego so you can see and accept all of it. So you can actually start working on it. It doesn’t come very natural to most of us, and we can sometimes miss the chance for growth while we are too busy trying to be the one who’s “right” in a situation.
I talked to Maxsen while Clary napped that day. Some people may have just blown off the entire event at that point so they don’t have to feel guilt but I knew it was important that him and I discuss how the day had went to that point and what I’d learned. Children generally do not understand your deep emotional adult struggles to the same degree of course, so Maxsen’s interpretation of how I was feeling that day could’ve been that I was really angry with him. It’s hard to know exactly what impact you’d had on a developing little human in these situations. It surely was affecting his mood though. I upset him by acting uncharacteristically just as I felt upset at how my kids were doing the same. I knew I had to take responsibility and explain to him why I was having a hard day and to help teach him empathy and perspective. How it’s not always about you when someone is responding to you poorly. I explained how when I don’t sleep, I have trouble managing my emotions – just like he knows he does when he is super tired. So he understood. I also encouraged him to bring to my awareness when he recognizes that I may be upset about something. He may be just shy of 4 but when we give our children credit like this we truly realize that they feel shifts in energy much easier than most of us do and they’re exceptional at spotting it. When you get down on their level to talk to them and open up they are also reminded they matter too and that you are very much human as well.
There’s not many reasons why we shouldn’t be sharing these explanations with our kids when we come to our own realizations. We are laying the groundwork, and giving them new skills to add to their toolbox to nurture their growth and relationships. It’s important that our kids know that we all make mistakes and what’s more important – in most cases – is that your child sees you take responsibility for them and they get a chance to learn through it too. I really think this is why so many of us will continue an argument even after our perspective has been disputed – we are terrified of being wrong and we were so often raised around others who would not admit to their own mistakes during an argument. This was the behavior modeled to us.
We aren’t perfect as parents, perfect isn’t even attainable. But being able to admit your faults, and learn your lesson, well I have found so much strength and vulnerability in that. I refuse to sit and feel guilty over and over, I have once again recognized my place for needed growth and I will do all that I can to have the conscious awareness to keep my children from emotional harm next time. You can’t avoid mistakes entirely 100% of the time, but you can learn everything you possibly can from your shortcomings and build on them! It feels better admitting to my shortcomings, it’s more productive and brings my children closer to me emotionally. Vulnerability allows for deep connection and it’s an area of my life that I am working really hard on, not just within parenting.
Have you been in a similar situation? Were you able to snap yourself out of it or did you just feel the guilt later?
All we can do is the best that we can with what we have in our awareness. And when we know better, do better.
It’s so important as parents that we broaden our perspective as much as we possibly can. I am not surrounded by many others who think in a similar manner to be but I definitely have started attracting much more mothers like myself. Because I didn’t have anyone to really learn from though personally – and had I not read so many parenting books and been a part of the Gentle Parents Unite facebook group since Maxsen was born – I doubt I would’ve been so quick to finally let my guard down (there are lots of other gentle parenting groups on facebook, this is just the first one I really felt like I vibed with). I’ve sought out perspective so that I can change the customary ways that I’ve thought my whole life.
We do not have to repeat history. We can be an entirely different parent than our own if we desire to. If you’re looking for more knowledge on where else to find help in your awareness as a parent, you could start with my post: My top 5 book recommendations for conscious parenting.
If you can totally relate or this left an impact, drop a comment below I’d love to hear from you.
May we all find the strength to be the parents our children need us to be.
We don’t all need to do this alone.
Here for you.
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