As parents, I think we all have the child who has the power to bring you to your wits end in a matter of seconds. The one that makes you want to be a better mom 8000 times a day.
This does not mean that they are a bad kid, that you love your other child(ren) more or that you are a bad parent—it just means that their personality clashes with yours sometimes and you go from 0-100 before the spilled milk even hits the floor.
Facing the Tough Moments is Making Me a Better Mom
My oldest has this power over me. I only had him to myself for 10 months before his sister joined our family but for those 10 months, when my focus was only on him, I gave him my all. He was spoiled with love and ‘stuff’. Actually, that spoiling lasted for many years while I tried to make up for leaving him at daycare while I pursued that coveted college diploma and then joined the workforce.
It wasn’t until I went on Mat leave for my third baby that I decided to pull back on the ‘stuff’ and focus on parenting my children myself. When I made the decision to not go back into the workforce I had these grand visions of having an amazing relationship with my kids where I gave each child the same amount of attention throughout the day. Where I could make each one feel loved and unique. Help them grow their passions and reap the rewards with an endless supply of hugs, kisses and ‘I love you so much, mommy’.
That was wishful thinking and the one who really got the short end of the straw is my oldest.
The more kids I had the more I expected him to happily fill the role of older, more responsible, sibling. In reality, he was the one who needed my one-on-one the most. He is the one who has gone the longest and he has been impatiently waiting for me to give it. He let me know several times a day that I was failing him but instead of sitting down with him for that one-on-one I did what was easier. I took space so that I could calm down. I asked my husband to talk to him while I did something for the other kids. I didn’t parent him.
During fits of frustration, my oldest would scream at me and tell me he hated me. I’d tell myself that these words are a normal part of parenting, I said the exact same thing to my mom when I was young.
As he’d stomp away from kitchen screaming at me I could hear him come back in and he’d come give me a hug. He just wanted my attention and I remember that when I was younger I used to feel like the only time my mom ever paid any attention to me was when I did something bad. Looking back now I know this was not true but the kind of love and attention I was yearning for was a lot to ask for from a mom of four that was often juggling running her own business and parenthood. Now history is repeating itself.
At some point, I realized something. That this kid, this child which I thought was bringing me all this anguish, was actually the key to calming my nerves. One day I gave in. I laid down on the couch with him and let us both decompress. I let our anger towards each other dissipate. My raging heartbeat calmed down. As his body calmed in my embrace I listened to him talk (and talk) about Minecraft, Youtube, and the newest video game that he wanted.
It felt like the weight of the world that was placed so squarely on my shoulders was no longer such a hard weight to carry. Or maybe I just realized that a lot of what I carried was not actually important.
His words escaped me as I drifted off into sleep. I didn’t realize that all the tension I was holding inside would stop when I allowed myself to relax and lay down. I think my heart was trying to show me how to be a better parent to him. It gave me relief when I have been feeling so overwhelmed for so long. It felt like the weight of the world that was placed so squarely on my shoulders was no longer such a hard weight to carry. Or maybe I just realized that a lot of what I carried was not actually important.
I can’t very well lay down and take a nap with my kids each time that we are feeling at odds but I can face my parenting challenges head-on and not delegate the bad parts to my significant other. Running away from the bad parts has made me miss out on the good parts. The parts I was looking forward to so much when I first decided to be a stay-at-home-mom—the hugs, the kisses and mostly the ability to make each of my four children feel like they were the most important person in the world to me.
Somedays it is hard to look at a child and see so much of your own insecurities in them but I feel like I have the cheat sheet to making things work because I’ve already been there. Wish me luck <3