Monday, June 3, 2013

When the Unlovely Loves the Unlikable - and other tales of parenting

Motherin' Monday

I love my kids, I really, really do.

But they are not always likeable.

There are all kinds of firsts that you don't have space for in the baby books.  The first time your child smears poo.  The first time your child lies to you.  The first time your child has a melt down in public.  The first time they manage to push your buttons to the point where you COMPLETELY LOOSE IT.

And the first time you realise they are reflecting your character flaws right back at ya.


It was easy to fool myself that I was a nice person before I had a husband and kids.  If I was frustrated, I could withdraw from the situation.  People were generally fairly polite to me and if they weren't I could leave, feeling justified in my wrath, and go and find some other friends.  If I was feeling snarky or in need of "me time" I could just go home, close the door, turn up my Janis Joplin album and read angst-y books to my hearts content. 'That time of the month' was usually accompanied by solo trips to the movies, buckets of jersey caramels and a door locked from the inside.  It was awesome.

But the thing is, you can't take the batteries out of your kids when they annoy you.  You have to take care of them even when they are being pillocks, brats and generally unpleasant children.  And those days have the happy coincidence of arriving (at least at my house) when I am at my least likeable too.

I can't decide if it is irony, God having a slightly twisted sense of humour or character growth.

As a mother, I have gleaned a few tips which work for me when it comes to loving the unlike-able child and dealing with my own less-than-lovely traits.  I am sharing here so I can come back and read them on *those* days and in the hopes that y'all can chime in.  Because let's face it, we need all the help we can get.

This is not a series on discipline techniques - I am not brave enough to do that.  Perhaps self discipline will come into it sometimes!  But for the most part, it's survival tips, thoughts and relationship building techniques from a non-expert who may have had opportunity to make a few mistakes and might have found out some stuff that may work for you too.

Tip 1

Take responsibility for yourself

* Don't be reactionary. If your children's every day behaviour can cast you into the pit of despair or catapult you to the heights of joy, you are in for a roller coaster of a ride.  If you join in your toddler's tantrums more often than not, nobody is having fun.  If you take everything your child decides to do personally, you are in for a slow decent to insanity.  Take a deep breath, step back and deal with whatever is going on like a grown up, do not engage.  If you stay grounded, you can be their anchor.

* Know your own limitations and plan accordingly.  I hate being human.  When I try and be super-human though, it just ain't pretty.  I hit a limit - needing to eat, sleep, bathe, have two minutes brain space to think, get a spiritual re-fill from prayer or the Word - and I haven't planned for it (because I am being super human that week).  I either have to push through or step back and let all the balls I had in the air fall down, letting down my kids, my husband and myself.  Which makes me crabby.  Often, crabby with my husband and kids.  And woe betide if any of THEM are less than perfect when I am in THAT particular mood!  But who is responsible for whom in this situation?  Is it my kid's job to make sure I eat well, get enough sleep, exercise, make time for spiritual input etc?  Who is the Mum here?  

I hate self-care, with the fire of a thousand suns I hate it.  I get everyone fed, bathed and put to bed then find out I forgot someone - me.  I don't want to do those things, but I need to.  Someday soon I will expand on this more (or not, because, you know, I hate self care) but the upshot of it is, you cannot effectively manage your kids if you are not taking care of yourself.  You are a grown-up, taking care of you is your job, nobody else's.

* Spank or hug your inner-moppet when necessary.  Few of us, in this fallen world, have made it to adulthood without emotional *stuff*.  Whatever your issues, you need to own them and deal with them.  Unfair?  Yup.  You know what would be even less fair?  Passing on that legacy to your kids.  Seriously, you owe it to them to mess them up in a totally creative new way.  Take some time to think and pray about the things that trigger guilt, rage, frustration, hopelessness, anxiety etc. in you.  Journal, seek counselling, take an anger management course, pray - do whatever you have to in order to deal with it.  Rinse and repeat pretty much forever.  Because your pain and trauma does not justify you hurting your kids.  Yes, it needs to be said.  When they grow up, they WILL remember the ways you hurt them.  There is nothing you can say to them that will make it OK that you hurt them, you were supposed to protect and care for them.  Through humbly asking forgiveness and working hard to get rid of your junk so you can love them well, you can build a relationship with them which will foster love, mercy and forgiveness on both sides.  But you need to do your homework and take care of your junk.  You are the grown up.

Bad news: parenting can bring up all sorts of stuff you never even realised was there, dealing with it is your responsibility and it is not fun and it is not easy.

Good news:  This will give you opportunity to lay down burdens you didn't even know you were carrying and become the beautiful creation you were intended to be (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Yeah, I sometimes wonder if it's worth it too.  But I know it is.

* Forgive yourself. Every day.  Guilt is toxic, let it go before it poisons you.  You cannot do better if you are still beating yourself up over your failures.  Loving your kids when they are unlike-able is hard, but when you are consumed with self loathing it is damn near impossible.  

 Does all of this seem too hard?  If so, just curl yourself in a ball and hide yourself in God's mercy.  It's the best place to start and if you hide yourself in Him deep enough, all these things will probably happen anyway.  Because my experience has taught me that the best way to become a good mother, is to get to know your heavenly Father better.

What about you?  How do you manage those days when you and/or your children are being unlike-able?

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