Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 2: Am I Really Doing This?

Most days I feel like I'm nose-above-water with an anchor tied to my ankle, so it seems a little crazy to undertake one more thing that requires a daily commitment. But the reason I struggle with positive parenting in the first place is because priorities are all too easily jumbled in the busyness of life. So I guess a daily reminder to keep my children at the top of the list and to stay present with my goals is something worth making time for.

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
Day 2: Jackson throwing his fork, then broccoli on the floor because he's angry isn't "bad behavior." It's his way of showing me that he's aware of his needs and feelings, that he trusts me enough to let me see them, and that he needs my help managing them. This was his way of expressing that he was angry and sad because Daddy had to leave, and I'm so grateful he didn't just "behave" and sit alone with those feelings.

I believe my child's behavior is always motivated by a deep desire to have his needs met. Those needs are never as simple as 'wanting to make me mad' or 'acting out'. Each behavior that elicits a negative feeling from me is nothing more than an earnest attempt to communicate those needs. I have to work hard (really hard!) to act on this conscious belief rather than the unconscious beliefs I've internalized from others.

My job isn't to correct his behavior, it's to identify the need he's trying to show me through his actions and meet him there without judgment. Each time I do this, I reinforce that our home and our relationship is a safe place for him to feel and to be as he is, that he is loved the same when he's angry as when he's cheerful, and that he is understood and accepted. My job is also to offer him the tools he needs to communicate those needs in healthier, more effective ways. Modeling is the most important way to do this, and also happens to be the most difficult for this big-feelings Mom! Is it any wonder he throws something to communicate that he's angry, when he's watched me do the same?

Each time I ignore the real issue and treat the symptom, I chip away at the relationship I've spent two years building, especially the trust and security he so desperately needs. This happens all too often...hence the blog!

I will choose acceptance over resistance.
Day 2: Max has decided that he would like to wake up in the middle of his afternoon nap, the only quiet time mommy has to accomplish things, to poo. I consistently nurse him well in advance of nap time and offer him the potty multiple times before laying him down, but he has decided that a poo before nap just isn't his thing. I can let it bother me every day and ruin my afternoon, I can fight it by trying even harder to encourage pre-nap poos, OR I can simply accept that for now, this is what works for him. I can anticipate it, work it into my schedule, and release myself from the dread of interruption. Maybe I can even enjoy the quiet opportunity to spend a few minutes with him while Jackson's sleeping...even if it is for poo.

I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
 Day 2: As I was packing the 6-month-sized clothes away and exchanging them for the next size (already?!), Jackson insisted on rifling through all the neatly folded piles to find things that would fit on or over his head. My first reaction was to get annoyed and make him stop, but when I saw how goofy he looked with a tiny little shirt hanging from his head, I decided to cherish his love of dress-up play instead. In the end this meant that I got intense joy out of watching him play, especially once he donned his first Halloween costume complete with yogurt bucket hat, self-made bead necklace, playdough scissors, and basket of food on his way to "hang out with Cinderella's step-sisters."

I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day. 
Day 2: Jackson was unruly at bedtime. His eczema was flaring up for the first time in two weeks and the manic behavior usually comes with it. He was climbing the walls, almost literally. Instead of acknowledging that he was feeling out of control and just as overwhelmed as I was, I chose to bark demands at him. "Control your body," knowing full well he couldn't. "Calm yourself down," knowing he wasn't capable, especially not on his own.

I felt overwhelmed by the level of activity, angry that I had completely lost control of the situation, frustrated that after weeks of success on a new plan of action for his eczema we were hitting our first obstacle, guilty because it might have been the pizza I ate the night before that was causing the flare up. And the icing on the cake is that I'm fully aware in the moment of the fact that I'm failing him, and rather than latching on to that as a way to change direction, I feed into the problem by letting it make me feel angry at myself for not being able to remain calm! Let's just say a wave of big feelings was knocking me down, none of which he was responsible for.  But I made him responsible for my feelings when I was impatient and refused to do what was best for him. Instead seeing that he needed help, I saw him as an obstacle that I needed to overcome. I failed him.

Once we both miraculously calmed down, I acknowledged that I had let him down. I asked him if he was feeling overwhelmed and told him that I should have helped him, that it's okay to feel that way and okay to ask for help. I apologized, he forgave me. It's done. I will release myself from the guilt and anger that come along with these disappointments, and I will file it away under "learning experiences" not "failures."

This one is the hardest, and most important for me. Forgiveness and grace don't come naturally. I like order and justice, black and white, and it banishes me to a cycle of negativity all the time. The more I beat myself up for my mistakes, the more I make them because I feel unworthy and incapable of change. I label myself a failure and it remains a self-fulfilling prophesy.

But I refuse to continue modeling this to my children. I refuse to pass this family curse on to them. I WILL forgive and accept my imperfect self because they deserve a mom who walks around with joy and freedom, not with a heavy burden of failure and self-loathing. And because I can't bear the thought of them internalizing the message of imperfection as unworthiness. I am worthy of these things because God says I am, and who am I to argue with that?

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