The last few weeks I’ve been waxing philosophical about new beginnings, inner peace, growth. Yup, that’s still all good stuff but just like that, life comes back around to kick you in the pants (or slap you on the butt; just wait, you'll understand).
One long Winter break, numerous Christmas gifts and many chocolates later, and my child is like a genie that needs to be put back in the bottle!
That got me thinking. What’s changed? Not much. I have a child who is very strong willed and all about the “good times.” I really admire that about him as well. He walks into a room full of strangers and comes out with an entourage! That will serve him well in life. However, schoolwork or anything that looks or smells like it might be boring. Forget it. All interest and compliance go out the window.
How is this possible? My husband and I are two of the most rule-following, compliant, low-key, organized people you will ever meet. How did we end up with MC Party Time? Well, like they say, “You may not have gotten the child you wanted, but you got the child you needed.” Ugh, why do they say that!!!
So first, let’s have a moment of silence and grieve for the child we thought we would have but didn’t get. Also, we need to grieve for the life we thought we would have with this “dream” child...
Okay, are we done with that? Good.
We need to get over it. It’s life. Life does what it does. If you weren’t quite prepared for the child or children you got, we just have to pivot. I’m sure I wasn’t the kid my parents were expecting either, so we need to embrace the uniqueness of ours as well.
Remember, our kids are the people they were meant to be and who they are going to be. Our hopes, expectations and efforts are helpful, but they don’t dictate outcomes. Research shows that kids from “good” homes have issues and kids from “bad” homes can have great successes so who knows.
The kid’s will be alright. We are doing our part. We are here. We are being the best parents we can be with the knowledge, resources and support we have. If any of that is lacking, go out and get what you need. In the meantime, enjoy your kids and let them know “you see” them. Not for who you would like them to be but for who they are.
Here’s a few tips to help you support that messaging and ways to strike a balance with your expectations versus the way things really are.
Hug Your Kids – I read a post that said, “The kids who need the most love ask for it in the most unloving ways.” Preach! Truer words have never been spoken (or posted). My son runs in the room, slaps me on the behind and runs out (told ya). I guess that’s his way of saying “hi.” I used to get mad but now I recognize it for what it is. He’s trying to connect. Now, I tell him it’s not polite, appropriate, or respectful and then chase him down and hug him. He runs away and swears he doesn’t want the hug but the impish smirk on his face and the tell-tale giggle are a dead give-a-way. I preemptively hug him now. This always catches him by surprise, he likes it, and it cuts waaaay down on the booty slaps!
Be Silly with Your Kids – We are parents, and we work. We take care of the house, pay bills, and keep everything moving. And quite frankly, sometimes we’re just not that fun. Children (even some pre-teens and teenagers) have not yet developed an understanding of the fact that life is not always fun. “Why can’t you be more fun?” they will ask you. Well, why can’t we? A little levity with your children every once in a while, will let them see another side of you, help support connection and lower your stress level as well. Have a dance party with them, do something out of character like dress up like them and pretend to be cool like them. Tell them jokes. Go to a trampoline park with them. (Yes, I did that and it was SOOOO much fun). More often than not, they would love to have a laugh with you. So, give'em a laugh.
Do Not Compare Them – Never, even in the heat of anger say, “Why can’t you be more like…” You have just validated to them that they are not enough the way they are. They already know they may be challenging in some way and as their parents we need to assist in changing that mindset with them. Look for and compliment the things that make you proud when they do them. When the behavior or outcome is not so great, let them know you are disappointed with the behavior, not them. It’s our job to build them up, not tear them down.
Hold Your Ground but Don’t Hold a Grudge – Sometimes, you gotta be the bad guy (or gal). It’s parenting and there are rules. When a rule has been broken, stand your ground. Explain what went wrong, what the outcome is and how it should play out the next time. Then, let it go. Unless your child therapeutically requires the repetition gained through revisiting an issue for awareness and learning, bringing something up over and over again is not helpful. For you or them. You’re holding a grudge (and adding stress to your life) and they are feeling beat up. Address it, resolve it, move on. After one such incident, my son yelled, “Why are you being such a Karen?!” I responded, “I’m a Courtney, and that’s so much worse!” We both got a laugh out of it, the message was received, and we moved on. Silly and effective.
Pick Your Battles – It’s January. My son wears shorts to school every day. I do not fight him on it anymore. For all the other important items that may come up, this one is low in the pecking order. Save your strength for the wars. Like wearing shorts in the winter, if there’s something your child is doing, saying, wearing, or eating that you’re not thrilled with but can live with, let it go. They are kids. Soon, it will be something else. Just wait. You should have a few key non-negotiables. Do not compromise on them and make it clear that you won’t.
Adjust Your Perspective Accordingly – In keeping with acceptance of the child you had versus the child you anticipated, adjust your perspective and expectations accordingly. Don’t push your likes and hobbies on your kids unless they express a genuine interest. Don’t take it personally if they don’t. Show interest in what motivates them as long as it’s not detrimental to them, others or scares the crap out of you. When it comes to expectations, temper those. I’ve often said, expectations can be disappointments waiting to happen. So, your kid is not the next rocket scientist or standout athlete, just enjoy the journey of finding out who they will become. I’ll bet it’s something pretty awesome.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog posts, it’s not just about your kids. It’s about you too. What do you do with all those feelings and angst about having a child with not-so-great behavior, questionable communication methods, limited academic or athletic prowess? Again, you pivot. Take care of you so you can take care of them.
You had a plan for your life, your kids, your future. It’s not over, it’s just been detoured or delayed a bit. And we can't change that. All we can do is manage it. It's confusing and feels so unfair. Like, "Am I a bad person? What did I do to deserve this?" But you've done nothing wrong. Parenting is being thrown a curveball from the moment of conception! You don’t need to fix anything. However, you can always address your needs and your approach to the situation. The fact is, you were you before you became a parent. You were you before whatever happened/changed, and you still matter. You still deserve motivation, purpose, passion, patience, hope and most of all, peace. It’s not selfish, it’s the same thing you should do for your kids. Give them some grace and give yourself some too.
But if you’re struggling with challenges that influence how you parent or live your life, you have to act. Build in that self-care you need. It's not an escape from responsibility, it's an important component for a healthy you. Call in the troops if you need to (family, friends, neighbors). Get out for that walk. Take a yoga class or get a message. Make time to do things you enjoy like reading a book or taking a hot bath. Get a hotel room for the night if you need to for a blessed night of uninterrupted sleep! Whatever it is, do it. But if you find you need more than self-care or a break here and there, if you find you need expert help, seek it out. A good counselor, therapist, or coach (hint, hint) is worth their weight in gold. I wouldn’t give my coach up for anything!
Despite all our efforts our kids will be who they turn out to be. Our job is to support that journey no matter how bumpy it is (within reason as well). Trust your gut and do your best. Kids are just kids. They are not the “little” humans we want them to be because we are tired, busy and think they should know what we know. They don’t.
As for my little (now bigger) bundle of joy, no matter how snarky, snippy, or sarcastic, I do so love that kid. He is at the end of the day, the fruit of my looms, the apple that fell from the tree and the walking, talking embodiment of love.
Parenting is challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. Need a shoulder or a sounding board? Let's Talk.
Take care and be well,