Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 141: The Difference a Day Makes

Edit: Since we all have different definitions of various undesirable parenting behaviors, I thought I should add a disclaimer. I never use abusive language toward my children; they are never belittled, called names, or otherwise verbally abused in the overt sense of the word. And certainly I never cross physical boundaries with them. What I consider intimidation and domination looks more like "normal" parenting in actuality. Raising my voice, shooting angry looks, using a hurtful tone, and throwing out threats of lost privileges are all forms of intimidation and domination which are ultimately used to coerce children into desired behaviors through fear. These are the things I'm referring to in this post.

 I wrote yesterday, but didn't post. Partly because it was more a therapeutic rant than a composed post, but also because it felt a little too raw at the time to put out there to the world (aka my tens of readers *snort*).

But having stepped back from the ledge I now think there is value in 'going there' - by which I mean not only writing authentically in hindsight, but letting authentic, real-time venting make an appearance as well.

So here's yesterday's post: 

Day 140: Overwhelmed

It seems like this feeling comes in tidal waves. It swells and washes over me, then fades until it's like it was never there.

The problem is that the days when I'm under, I'm really under. I can't breathe. I can't think. I can't move. And I certainly can't see the inevitable regression of chaos and inadequacy or the promised reappearance of order and capability.

Today is that day. With new rooms, neither of my boys are sleeping.

Max has been up since 6:30am and only napped one hour. He is now clinging to me as if I may forever abandon him at any moment simply because I tried to put him down in a new place. Never mind the fact that he's in the same bed with the same blanket, pillow and fan, or that I picked him up the moment he fussed, or that I finally put a mattress on the floor and nursed him to sleep there; I don't get any credit for that apparently.

Jack didn't nap at all. Can you say crazy? We've been in one long power struggle today, probably because I'm so tired from two weeks of waking all night with Max (when exactly is this fun little phase going to end?). Oh, and for some reason today seems like the appropriate time for an explosion in his desire for autonomy. Translation: Whatever I want him to do is now what he patently refuses to do because he didn't choose it himself.

All I want is for something to go my way. Can't something just be easy today?! Does everything have to be a struggle? And why, when all I feel like doing is crying because everything is so far from where I want it to be, is it easier to yell and punish my kids for the way I feel?

The fear of being unable to cope with less than ideal circumstances comes from being unable to cope with less than ideal circumstance. Days like today are the ones that make me frantic to control all things external in an attempt to avoid ever having to endure something like this again.

Yikes! Yep, that was the end. No positive conclusion, no pretty little bow to wrap it all up in. Yesterday. just. sucked. and I was wallowing in self-pity.

Thankfully my real-life knight in shining armor came home after a long day at work and jumped right in, doing dishes, playing with the kids, doing bedtime, and otherwise rescuing me and the boys from each other.

But with the perspective of a new day and a fresh sense of capability (I knew it would come, even if I couldn't feel it) I now have the benefit of analyzing my frazzled self from yesterday.

Here's the cold hard truth: It's my fear of weakness and the choice to feed into that fear rather than facing it that drives me to where I was yesterday.

When I start to feel as if life is just too much and nothing is as it should be - when the house is a mess (again...still), the HMN events need to go up (two weeks ago), the bills need to be paid (with what?), the article needs to be written (swallow your pride and appreciate the paycheck), and the kids need attention (are they still here?) - I feel inadequate. For me this translates into weakness, because if I were just more efficient, more organized, more focused or just all around better, I would be strong enough to carry it all on any given day. Riiiiiiiight.

My default reaction to weakness is to grasp at power any way I can get my hands on it. Unfortunately for the small walking and talking being in our household, this sometimes means asserting myself in the forms of intimidation and attempted domination. Tactics he is now (thankfully) confident enough to resist - hence the day-long power struggle.

Although I can't consciously identify it at the time, what I'm actually doing is trying to feel powerful and in control by taking power and control from someone else. How disgusting! And I don't say that in the self-deprecating, I'm-so-awful kind of way. I really just mean that this is objectively a disgusting way to treat another human being.

But the real problem isn't weakness or inadequacy. It's my refusal to let go, to accept my limitations, my circumstances and the lack of control I have over them. It's these things that leave me 'unable' to cope, not a lack of strength to power through and make it work.

Overwhelmed is much less likely when I'm living and parenting consciously. It even feels manageable when I'm focused on relationships over tasks, communication over accomplishment.

Instead of needing things to go my way, I see the value in reaching and expanding my limits and using the accompanying feelings as a guide in resetting priorities and reassessing responsibilities. When I release myself from the fear of weakness I feel what's real in that moment - be it sad, unhappy, unsatisfied, inadequate - instead of masking those 'inferior' emotions with 'powerful' anger. When I let go of expectations and address the reality of what is, I'm able to creatively meet challenges and I'm rewarded by feeling capable and powerful in a healthy way. And most of all, when everything goes 'wrong' I can still take pride and joy in connecting with my kids in the midst of all the chaos.

That is not where I was yesterday. It is thankfully where I am today.

The house is still a mess, HMN business still needs to be attended to, phone calls still need to be made, paperwork still has to be filed, and supper isn't going to make itself. But we're happy today. We're enjoying each other, laughing, getting through the hiccups quickly and cooperatively, and having a darn good day despite it all.

Thankfully days like yesterday make me appreciate days like today much more, so they do serve a purpose after all!


  1. Hi Meredith, I just found my to your blog and wanted to drop you a note to say how much I appreciate your honesty and openness. I think we ALL have days like this. Blogging about it helps us all process and grow from those days. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you, Sylvia. It's so much easier to be open when others like yourself are willing to stand up and admit we've all been there!