Parenting Tips (and Burst my Bubble)

Parenting rocks. Parenting sucks. Parenting rocks.

There are great sources of information out there. And terrible sources of information out there. There are great sources of information out there.

When it comes to parenting (mothering in particular), we are our own worst enemies. We are also – potentially – our greatest cheerleaders and sources of shared experience.

  • Think that’s true or a lot of crap?
  • Think I have experience to share, or I’m full of it?
  • Think I think I’ve done it “all right?” Not.

Burst my bubble. Go on. I’ve been through worse.

My parenting has sucked. It has also rocked. And then sucked again.

Clarifications on language and psychology

Yesterday I went off on a tangent dealing with language usage. First – apologies to Sarah if in any way she was miffed that I used her remark out of context, as the jumping off point for my thoughts. I worried all evening about whether or not I had unintentionally offended; my impression of Sarah is that she is a terrific mother of three little ones, and we all know what a talented writer she is.

Damn difficult to find the precise word to please everyone, when you’re pumping out remarkable articles and comments to your readers, which both Sarah and Jen do non-stop, at Momalom.

I also thought about the pop psychologists (the TV personalities with no degrees, much to say, and quick fix solutions to complex problems). And I considered the “non pop” psychologists and others in the counseling profession who spend years studying and in practice, in the service of helping others.

Psychology rocks. Psychology sucks. Psychology rocks.

As with anything else – there are those with a gift, we form the right kind of bond, and through shared work and interaction, we make enormous progress toward living life in more productive ways, and leading our children through a healthier, more satisfying upbringing.

My beef

My intention in yesterday’s writing was not to disparage anyone, but to encourage us to see how much power there is in language, and that power is within our control, free of charge.

Language is critical. Using it, interpreting it, and learning from it. The words we let loose in our heads impact self-esteem. The words we exchange with those we love and with whom we work are far more influential than we realize (work being the location where precise vocabularies are easier).

And my particular beef with women (and mothers) – and thus, myself – is that we second guess and undermine our own  internal guidance systems through self-recrimination, unrealistic expectations, and language. In changing our words, in being more specific, we not only can give ourselves a break (and most of us should), but we can effect change. Positive change.

On being “present”

There’s a great deal of emphasis on “being present” in our lives. I’m reading (and hearing it) everywhere.

If “being present” becomes one more thing heaped onto a precariously overloaded schedule or an overrun daily list of to-do items, then what? Isn’t it just one more burden, and don’t we beat ourselves up if we can’t be more present?

  • How can you feel good about your moments when you live in a stream of sleep-deprived diapers, fluids, feedings, and too little adult company?
  • How can you feel present when you’ve got three kids fighting incessantly, vying for your attention, and you’re scrambling to pay the basic bills and juggling two jobs?

Sometimes our real “present” is about surviving, not moments of tender togetherness.

We may have a fleeting moment of our illusion of “present parenting” – more likely when the clamor dies down and sweet faces are asleep – but let’s not expect miracles of ourselves during periods of time when getting through the day is miracle enough.

Popping the parenting bubble

I have had times when I lived in a parenting bubble. Some of it was the blur of exhaustion. Some of it was before any real “problems” hit.

Mostly, I’ve learned by trial and error, enhanced by expert advice at difficult junctures. My parenting bubble burst with separation 9 years ago, and it’s been a crap shoot every since, along with being guided by my kids through this journey to adolescence. And believe me – I second guessed myself. There were glorious highs (I barely recall in the blur) and terrible lows, and we aren’t done yet. There is no smooth journey; that’s what I’ve come to realize looking at the past, and living in my present.

My parenting has rocked. My parenting has sucked. My parenting has rocked. As it has and will for all of us.

All these years later – still uncertain, still tired, and still aware of my parenting shortcomings – I look at the larger picture and realize I’ve done the best I possibly could. There have been times I’ve been of no help whatsoever to my kids – stressed and exhausted themselves. There have been other times I’ve given them permission to not perform in some way, so they might relax, and be kids.

Choosing words carefully (and listening to the echo)

Through everything – to the best of my ability – I’ve chosen my words as carefully as possible. More so because I am the child of an abusive parent who did not choose her words. If anything, her invective and everyday manipulation of language cut me down and marked me in insidious ways. Indelibly.

Use your words kindly for yourselves, explicitly to better understand what your children may be hearing, and in dealing with each other. Listen to the echo – to the words your children use – and how they absorb what is heard at home.

Parenting can be brutal, but those of us who engage with all our hearts know it is also the most important job there is. I’m way beyond that burst bubble of thinking it was predictable, containable, perfectible – or all within my control. It’s none of those things, a bit of those things, and there’s nothing “just” about any of that.

© D A Wolf