It’s a commonly accepted notion that parents aren’t perfect. Hell, any person on earth can rattle off an embarrassingly long list of the imperfections their parents carry whether those parents are living or dead and despite the retrospective glorification of the passed. And yet, as a parent, it sucks to know you aren’t perfect and that you lose your cool and that you keep fucking up no matter how hard you try to not be that douche bag mom or dad that you inevitably wind up being.
Then there are the peripheral influences constantly undermining what you’re trying to teach your child– the television, schools, other children, other parents, your own parents, friends, family, media (oh those magazines– seemingly benign and yet as chock full of shitty advertisements as the boob tube), and a never ending gauntlet of horrible reading (“hey look mom– McDonald’s farm…” Oh geez…).
So how deep is your resolve? How long are you patient before you crack? What does it look like when you flip your shit on a tiny person? Is it really fair to be so upset? Can understanding improve your reaction? Is it a lack of sleep? Is it a bad diet? What can you do to not do what you do?
What is important to teach your child? Is it health? Is it patience? Is it listening? Is it acknowledgment? Is it any of the shit that you lose your mind over? Does it really matter?
Does it matter that your child doesn’t answer when you call them, ask them questions, speak to them, or anything? Does it matter that they cry and throw a fit every time you serve them a salad? Does it matter that they refuse to take a nap and just fidget for hours even though they’re beyond tired (you know, crying when you sneeze, getting violent or too silly, and generally making terrible behavioral decisions)? Does it really matter if they clean up after themselves? Is it okay for them to smear water, juice, food, or other all over themselves, the table, or whatever other noun– because kids will be kids, right?
Are all these frustrations because you are having a problem or because they’re really a problem? Where do you draw the line? And is it true that if you let them get away with bad behavior once they’ll think they can do it time and time again?
And at some point during this entire thing, you are apt to lose your cool. You try to sit there and encourage your child to eat a salad and make light of the tears, screaming, and refusal to eat healthy food and then after like two hours (can you believe that eating healthy food is that important to you?) you flip out and toss out some mostly empty threats, possibly a few choice words, and all at an elevated tone. Is it fair to say that it’s warranted? Is it fair to assume that even the most patient person would find themselves challenged? Does the salad really matter that much? Why did you make this a two hour long showdown and then get upset that after two hours this autonomous person hasn’t bowed to your will? Isn’t that in and of itself a testament to the power of your parenting that your kid thinks for themselves quite strongly enough to resist your idle threats and health food?
Is it about eating healthy? Is it about listening? Is it about respect? Why does it matter so much?
When the homework is sloppy, do you really need to make them do it over again? Is it really that important? It’s their homework after all. What are you trying to teach them by having them do their best always? It’s not as though their shitty homework is a reflection on you. Is it so important because it’s a habit that you hope they’ll cultivate? A habit, that in its absence you’re afraid they won’t be able to build the premise of a healthy homework habit and therefore harness a successful scholastic experience and therefore future financially awesome employment? Do you really think that if your child’s homework is a bit sloppy that they won’t get into a good college (do you even want them to go to college) or that they will be forever destined to work some shite job (like you possibly work)? And if you do think this, then do you really think that somewhat sloppy homework is the only thing standing in between them and a successful life? Or could those barriers perhaps come from your shitty attitude toward what they do (playing on phone, “yeah yeah good job kiddo” to their actions) and somewhat sloppy manner of parenting calmly, respectfully, and patiently (“DO IT NOW”)?
At what point do we stop looking at our children, pointing the finger at their actions and instead take a long look in the mirror, listen back on the tape recorder, and take 10 deep breaths of introspection toward our own actions. Losing your cool isn’t your child’s fault. It has nothing to do with them, but everything to do with you. What are you expectations, premises, and desires for your child and how are these things affecting your relationship to them and with them? How do your expectations cause pain, frustration, and ultimately your inability to remain patient, loving, and supportive like you (hopefully) strive to be?
What is really important?
Is it the homework, salad, lack of acknowledgement, questionable behavior, refusal to nap, and all the other myriad things that children annoy their parents with? Or is it knowing that sleep is so important to a growing body along with proper nutrition and love and encouragement which needs to be reciprocated. Is it knowing that your child wants to have friends and that proper and healthy communication is so crucial to making and keeping friends of worth and value? Is it seeing the sweet sleeping face of your newborn super-imposed on this temporarily devilish nutcase that is terrorizing the afternoon you thought would be a naptime/snuggle fest with your sunshine?
How can we communicate these things without idle threats, time out, choice words, elevated tones, and general frustration, anxiety, upset, and discord? Therein is the question and the answer. Parenting isn’t about justifiably losing your cool or accepting that its apt to happen. Parenting is about asking yourself what’s really important and operating from that place. It’s not about you any longer– it’s about your child. So what really matters because it’s best for your child not best for you?