For the first year or so I loved my parenting and I very much love my children, but in my mind things started to go wrong, and I started to really struggle with my non-sleeping, emotional child.
As a parent who wanted to ‘get it right’ with my children I have read a lot of books that tell me what to do, and how to be.
I am not going to tell you what to do. I have found that as soon as someone says, ‘this is the best thing to do’, then I start judging myself for not being able to do it all of the time. Because I wanted to be a loving mother all of the time. For example the book says, when you feel angry ‘stop, breath, remove yourself from your child’. Well that’s OK when you can actually do that but what about when you can’t? When thought brings you anger and you don’t have the next handy thought to go away from the child! Have you tried to stop yourself from being angry? Does it always work? When it doesn’t do you feel like I did, guilty and like I had got it wrong – a bad Mummy?
What I teach is an explanation of how we are already working, that I can only be angry if I have an angry thought. Noticing that the anger is coming within me and not from my child is so helpful. I can sometimes have a little laugh about it to myself, and then at other times I can’t see it and I am angry. So what.
In the same way my children can have their emotions. I don’t tell them not to cry. I don’t tell them, ‘it doesn’t hurt’, how could I possibly know that? They have and express their emotions and I have and express mine. Again I am not telling you what to do. You know your children better than anyone and really you know what to do. I am saying that when we know where our experience of our children comes from, from thought, we have less cause to worry about them as it doesn’t make sense to us any more to do so.
For example, when I dropped an unhappy, clingy child off at school I would spend the whole day, or at least the morning, worrying about them; worrying that they were OK and feeling sad about them, and wanting to be there for them, to comfort them. However when I picked them up from school what I noticed was that they were fine and I had been worrying for no reason. I checked with the teacher and they had forgotten about their upset about 2 minutes after I had left the classroom. So why was I worried about them all day? When I realised that the worry was coming to me, that it was my thinking, and was nothing to do with them, it didn’t really happen any more.
What I am realising is that family life isn’t supposed to be calm and constant, a bit like we as human beings aren’t supposed to be calm and constant. We all have our emotions, they go up and down like the waves on the sea, it is natural. Family life has a natural ebb and flow and when we know where our experience of that is coming from we get less and less concerned about it being perfect and more and more comfortable with its imperfectness.
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