When Parenting is Hard…
I feel like my title may be a little misleading, as though the majority of the time I find the whole parenting experience a breeze which is really not the case at all. Parenting is a constant challenge, a never-ending period of adjustment, of making mistakes and of trying to learn from those mistakes. Of course it is also an amazing privilege and I look at my children with wonder and awe every single day, especially when they are sleeping!
But sometimes there are those times (and I hope I’m not alone in this) when I find myself shutting the door to the bathroom and sliding the lock across just to get five minutes peace, to perch myself on the edge of the bath with my head in my hands and think ‘what on earth am I doing wrong?!’
This week has been one long stretch of those moments. It’s funny because I came back from a blogging conference on Saturday to big hugs and tales of how well Meg and Eli had behaved. Then on Sunday we were out having lunch as a family and a perfect stranger came over and told us how lovely our family was; how well behaved Meg and Eli had been and she congratulated us on doing such a great job. It was a random and heart-warming moment when we secretly high-fived each other and our clearly awesome parenting skills.
Then Monday morning rolled around. Since 6am on Monday morning this week has just been a total write-off. We’ve had boxes of cereal thrown across the kitchen spilling their contents everywhere (seriously, I had no idea tiny little hoops could travel so far…), we’ve had refusals to get dressed, we’ve had kicking and screaming and shouting and fighting and that’s just from me. I jest, sort of. There have been more moments than I would like to admit this week when I have just lost my temper and resorted to shouting in order to get out of the house just slightly less late than we would otherwise have been.
There have been time-outs and toy removals and tactics of ignoring the chaos unravelling around me. Every trick I’ve ever read or seen or heard of has been employed and yet still Meg and Eli have pushed the boundaries and stretched my patience to its absolute limit.
I’ll admit I was actually dreading today when Eli wouldn’t have preschool. I was picturing myself hiding upstairs in the study and pretending I had work to do so that I wouldn’t have to listen to him whinging and whining. I couldn’t imagine how my week could get any worse and I didn’t want to find out.
And then this morning it all seemed to go without a hitch. The kids woke up and got dressed and ate their breakfast pleasantly. They put their shoes on and got into the car without a single protest. Eli asked whether we could go on a bear hunt in the woods with Pepper and he walked the entire time without a peep of a moan. Currently he is playing with his superhero figures whilst I get some work done. Playing nicely without a toy being thrown or smashed or taken to pieces.
I am under no illusions that it might not last; that this might be just a brief reprieve before it all kicks off again but it has served as a reminder to me that parenting is sometimes the hardest and most challenging journey you can go on but those times when you want to press the palms of your hands to your eyes so hard just to stop the roil of frustration, those times when you look through your cupboards to see where the pills are which have transformed your child from a gorgeous little angel into a squawking little horror, those times when you break down when your husband walks through the door because you are convinced that somehow you are doing everything wrong and you have inadvertently begun to rear tearaways…those moments don’t stay forever.
Underneath the boundary pushing and the rule stretching and the periods of sometimes downright disobedience, is your loving child. You might not always see them but they are there. And these times when parenting is tough is just another learning curve. It rubs away the rough edges and reveals the parent you never knew was hiding underneath. I would never have described myself as a patient person but I know now that I am 100 times more patient than I was prior to having children. I am 100 times more giving and more gracious and more loving.
As parents it is our job to teach and to guide, it is our privilege to show our little people the right ways to behave and respond but I also think that sometimes it is them teaching us. I know that is certainly true for me.
I want to encourage the mama who feels like parenting is too hard right now…who is wondering how she can survive another day of drama and chaos…who feels tears brimming and her heart sinking when she hears ‘M-u-u-u-u-u-m’ because she knows what is coming…it will get better. It will get easier. And you will come out of this trying season having learned more than you ever thought possible. Those beautiful children you are raising are just being children and, believe me, I know that sometimes it is hard to see it but hang on in there.
You are not alone and although it sometimes feels like you might be seeing wave after wave of proud mama posts (and I admit I do my fair share of those too…) there are also those out there who are having a hard time. Who are finding parenting hard. I will raise my hand and say that has been me this week without a doubt but I cling to the knowledge that I am not alone and that it will end.
And you know there is always the future to look forward to. When you can sneak into your child’s bedroom at 6am when they are 14, 15, 16, peel open their eyelids and shout ‘get up, it’s morning. Don’t you know the sun is up and it’s morning!’…just to get your own back.
And now I have to sign off as I’ve just caught sight of Eli walking past the study brandishing a felt tip pen and that can only mean one thing…my walls are in danger of being treasure-mapped.