By Kim C. Flodin
Kim Flodin has been part of the Soho Parenting community 20 years, is a writer and mother of two daughters. Her work has been featured in Newsweek and New York Times, among other publications, and you can read more from her on her blog – http://blogsgotnotitle.blogspot.com/.
After a lifetime of even-temperedness, becoming a parent struck a chord that released both a passionate, besides-myself love, as well as an intense anger when things got tough. My rage kicked off in my first-born’s toddler years; it intensified during my daughters’ teen years, especially my second child’s adolescence, which has been stormy. If she yelled, I yelled louder. If she got snarky, I replied in kind. If she threw something, I threw two things. It wasn’t pretty.
With my elder girl wrapping up her teen years and my “baby” half-way through them, I can report that things have been better, a lot better. For months now. And not by magic. To help turn the tide, I had to learn that:
* I needed help. Last year, my husband and I enrolled in a six-week, one-on-one immersion in counseling specifically to learn new skills and new ways of doing things, all the while going to half a year of monthly parenting coaching sessions. I kept (and keep) up my individual therapy. I mean, really, I can be taught.
* My home is refuge for my children from a sometimes-scary world, and if I infect this refuge with more scariness, where can they turn to?
* This is not about me and my hurts and my pain. I have other places to bring that to and other people to whom I turn for help. I have to be bigger than that for my girls.
* My hurts and pain, and even my rage, are real and deserve honor and attention in appropriate settings.
* It’s important to sometimes shut up and stop teaching, guiding, critiquing, limiting, punishing, expressing disappointment and dismay, and instead paint our nails or play ping-pong.
* I can still be mad, piping mad, but there is a line between anger and rage that I wish to respect always.
* I don’t have to make my kids admit that they understand my every opinion or decision and that they have become so won over by my exquisite reasoning and persuasiveness that they express, “Aha, mama, I see the light,” and willingly accept my every limit, conclusion or judgment gladly and with grateful hearts. Sometimes, it’s enough to just say, “It is so. I’ve explained why. You don’t have to like it; it is still so.”
* It’s ok for my kids to be angry with me. Their anger can work itself out without my responding every single time in kind.
* It’s overwhelming to them and to me to vent all my collected frustration at their every mishap in any given moment. “What! You didn’t clean your room again? You never clean your room, and you don’t go to bed on time, and you are always behind in your assignments, and you need a haircut, and you were late coming home from that party, and and and.” As one wise counselor advised, “Don’t kitchen-sink it.
* Taking breaks really helps in the moment of anger (walk away, mama), and in the bigger picture (a date night out, a few days away).
* “We are all doing the best we can. We can all do better.” More wise words from the wise counselor.
* We are all destined to follow our own paths and sometimes those paths are mysterious and winding and all the amount of guidance and “whoah, Betsy’s” that I extend can’t always change a child’s individual journey. Or at least not now in the moment and maybe never, as hard as that it is to accept.
* I do love my children unconditionally. If they take a million years to figure things out, make terrible mistakes, and maybe never get their act together—these things won’t matter more to me than that I love them above and beyond anything in this world. Period. End. Stop.