The world is all razzle-dazzle these days. The simple life has long since been replaced with gadgets, high-definition and real time, second-by-second coverage of every single moment, flying by at rapid speed. No rest for the weary. It’s flashy, lightning fast and damn. It’s so hard to keep up.
As a parent, I’ve found the pressure to “perform” to be brutal. When E was younger, we of course, wanted to give her “the world.” Of course that meant stimulating her on a variety of creative, educational, emotional and physical levels, right? On Mondays, she went to math tutoring so she could be the top of her class. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she went to the new kid’s gym that opened down the street for developmentally structured play. On Wednesdays, we did church dinner and youth group for social and spiritual growth. On Saturdays, here came the soccer games, group play and physical endurance. Sunday was family church day. Couple that with juggling the complex visitation schedule of a blended family, and she was always on the go. ALWAYS. She loved each of these activities individually, but when combined, was she really having fun? Or was she exhausted?
She started exhibiting major behavior issues. Catty and grouchy. Whiny and needy. Sometimes in-your-face defiant and sometimes a basket case of nerves. We couldn’t put our finger on it and honestly, we were frustrated with her. We were running around like her private taxi service, trying to give her every opportunity that every child ever wants and wasn’t she even the least bit grateful? What were we missing? What did she want from us? Didn’t she have it all?
Then we skipped her gym class one night by random circumstance. And we happened to not make it to youth group the next night. I thought she’d be frustrated to miss out on these activities that I assumed she was enjoying. Surprisingly enough, she actually seemed relieved. So on a whim, I skipped everything for just over a week. The result was astonishing. E started laughing again, relaxed and seemed to almost crave just going home and being with the family. She looked hopeful. When she asked the question “Are we just going home tonight?” when I picked her up from school with eyes happy and waiting…
It hit me. Less is more.
Our neighbor down the street has a daughter in traveling soccer, private tutoring, violin lessons, acting camps, production plays, basketball, youth group. The list goes on. And on. And on. I sometimes wonder when they ever eat, much less sleep. I admit to coping with demons in my head, telling me that I’m selling E short, when that family eye rolls us or makes comments about how their child is so much better prepared for the “real world.” There have even been comments of E being “that child” that others shouldn’t want their kids around because she’s not an All-American All Star at the top of her academic class. Wouldn’t they rather hang out with their child, who is so much better than E? As I see E’s feelings being hurt, I wonder, am I making the right choice? Are they better parents than me?
And then I look at E and I see everything we’ve gone through together as a family. Blended family disaster and all. And I know we’re doing a good job. This is what she needs. Us. Just us.
The point here is that what my child needs isn’t what your child may need. And visa versa. That super busy family with loads of activities might be serving their child in the very best way that works for all of them and meets their unique needs perfectly. What they are doing isn’t wrong (although I sure do wish they’d keep their judgments to themselves). What I am doing isn’t wrong. The point is that we need to release the pressure to perform. I’m not a parent because I want to show the world that I am awesome and can live up to every standard and expectation of this crazy, fast-paced world. I’m a parent because I want to create and raise and love on a child with all of my heart and soul. And fundamentally that means my only purpose is to identify their needs and seek to meet them. Whatever they are. I sit in judgment of no one else and their methods, but more importantly, I’m working to not sit in judgment of myself. I don’t need to compare or analyze or compete. For us, less is more. For E, less is more.
Her smile is the only vindication I need. The only medal of honor I want to wear.
Are you feeling the pressure to perform as a parent? You’re not alone.
How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown: Understanding Your Child’s Cues
Duh, duh, duh….the dreaded meltdown. With one kid, this can bring the strongest mommy to her knees. With multiples, well…the word “epic” takes on a completely new meaning. In the worst possible way.
Moral of the story? A little organization and forethought can go a long way. Considering WHY my kids were throwing tantrums and then exploring what I could do to prevent them before they started has saved me a million tears. Like I said, it’s not a perfect system. But every little bit helps.
How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child’s Cues
Every day I pick up my children from day care to hear “They are such great kids! They had a blast today and are some of the best listeners we’ve ever had. They’re so well-behaved!” Yay, Mama win! And then we go home and they act like total demon-infested, hell-raising psychos and won’t listen to a word I say. Weekends can be brutal and I sometimes find myself praising Jesus that I decided to keep working and not stay-at-home.
sweet kids from day care?
Best Thing I Ever Did: I went to pick the kids up one day and they were enjoying themselves, so I decided to just sit and watch for a bit and let them play. Funny thing happened. I started listening to how the day care teachers communicated with my children and how they responded. And the light bulb went off. I don’t know how to speak the language my kids understand.
I started listening harder. And then I came back the next day and did it again. Now, every time I drop off or pick up, I listen. How are they talking to my kids? What are they saying? How are the kids responding? And then I mimick it at home.
Major win!!! My kids are starting to see an extension of their daily routine back into the home and it’s making sense. I say certain words they’re used to hearing and like magic, they listen. Not every time (which I suspect also happens at day care), but the majority of time. Major improvement. We are starting to speak the same language.
Sometimes I forget (or refuse to admit) that I am not my children’s primary care provider. For those of us that work outside the home, most often our kids spend the majority of their time somewhere other than with us. Sometimes, being reminded of that hurts. A lot. But truth is, they develop routines, cues and references that we’re not familiar with. We need to learn the language they are used to hearing every day so that we can communicate our needs in a way they understand. I need to speak my children’s language.
Phrase Adjustments that Worked for Me:
- “Walk away please” instead of “No!” or “Don’t Touch!”
- “Are you using your listening ears?” instead of “Listen to me!”
- “I’m going to go to work for awhile, but Mommies always come back!” instead of “Say bye to Mommy. I have to go to work.”
11 Alternatives to Self Harm: Emily Speaks
If you’re just connecting with the Emily Speaks series, be sure to check out her first post, Cyber Bullying and Self-Harm, to catch up. Today, Emily will be sharing 11 alternatives to self harm to help those hurting to make healthier choices to cope with emotional struggles.
I know it can be hard not to self-harm if you’re being bullied, but you need to try to think of other ways to deal with the pain. Cutting leaves angry scars on your body. You should try to deal with your hurt in other ways. Here are 11 good examples that will hopefully help you out a little bit.
1. Try talking to somebody about what’s going on so that you can get it out of your system.
2. Go outside where nobody is around and just scream as loud as you can for as long as you want.
3. Take a rubber band and keep it on your wrist so whenever you feel like cutting you can just take that rubber band and snap it on your wrist (softly – not to where it harms you).
4. Get an old teddy bear or stuffed animal that you don’t want and take your anger out on that.
5. Go on a jog or go out and ride your bike or long board or whatever you have and just ride around to calm yourself down.
6. Go hang out with your friend(s) and get your mind off things that would make you want to cut or do anything else to harm yourself.
7. Sleep it out and take a long nap and see how you’re feeling when you wake up.
8. Go hang out with your family and just relax.
9. Listen to some music.
10. Read a book.
11. Get an art journal and draw out your feelings. You can paint, draw pictures, even just scribble hard.
These are some of the ways that I stop myself from cutting, because I do still think about it when things get rough. When that happens, I try to do these instead and it helps. It does! You need to do anything that would take your mind off of any bad thoughts you are having and make you want to hurt yourself. This might not be the best list of ideas, but if you take a chance and try them out, they might end up working for you. You’re not only helping yourself, but you’re helping everyone else around you by making a better choice to not self-harm.