I need to come clean about something.
This week was kind of a rough one in my life as a mama. I was not my best self with my six year old son. Far from it. In fact, I had one of my lowest mama moments ever. I didn’t like the way he was behaving, and I got mad.
A lot of the time, in such moments, I draw on the parenting tools I’ve learned over the years to get ahold of myself before I say something I regret. I’ve learned a lot from connection parenting, and often, those strategies get me through.
But not this time.
My son was kept doing the things that most push my buttons, and I became fully furious with him. I responded to his behavior with some deeply wounding words.
I watched him crumble, and my heart flooded with remorse.
What happened next?
Well, I did the only thing one can really do in such situations. I took a moment to cool down and get my head together. And then I made a repair.
I listened to his feelings. I held space for his hurt. I apologized for what I had said, and acknowledged how it had made him feel. As we cuddled together on the couch, his tears began to flow.
“Mama,” he told me, “you made me feel like I was a bad child.”
Indeed, I had. My heart broke to hear him say it, but that was exactly what I had done. I had, in that moment, become my worst parenting nightmare.
What was going on?
Well, a lot, truly. With him, a lot. He has endured a massive transition lately,starting kindergarten mid year at a new school. A huge change, that took him away from a world that’s been familiar and beloved by him.
On top of that, his sister has been sick for more than a week. During that time, she’s gotten more attention than little sisters ought to, in his view, and left very little Mama left for him.
Upon reflection, I could see that his wildly challenging behaviors were a very sensible response to all he’s had to go through recently.
Actually, the more I thought about it, the more I could see that the behavior I disliked the most was my own!
So what was going on with me?
Well, this, dear families, is the true purpose of my musings. Because this has come up a few times this week with Mamas in my circles, too.
How do we hold ourselves when we know we have hurt someone? Or even just not given our best to them? And especially when that person is our own precious child? How do you talk to yourself? How do we rebound from a momentary (or longer term) parenting failure?
Well, here’s what I did.
After I’d checked in with him, and he was back to happily playing with his sister, I took a quick self care break. I checked in with myself. I paid attention to my breathing, and noticed the feelings that arose. I felt the pain of inner judgment, and the remorse. I sat with those feelings without trying to change them. I noticed them for what they were – strong and painful, but also transient, as our emotions are always shifting and changing.
Then I thought about the conditions that had led me to feel so under resourced that I had lost it with my child.
Truly, there was a lot for me as well.
First, sleeplessness. My daughter’s illness had kept me up a lot of the night for several days.
Days, too, had been harder than usual. The school transition, while a positive shift overall, had meant a lot of extra emotional labor. We had all been trying hard to show up big time for my son, to help support him through his big feelings around the transition, and I was a little worn down from all we were giving.
Finally, my three year old is weaning, which brings with it a hormonal shift on par with birth or pregnancy. It can really wreak havoc on your emotions.
So, as awful as I felt about what had happened, I did what I needed to do to move on.
Just as I had made a repair with my child, I made a repair with myself.
I apologized to myself for being less than vigilant in my self care routines. I committed to try to do better at making space for the things that help keep me feeling strong and supported. I thanked myself for continuing to show up.
In short, I spoke to myself with the same kindness and love that, in better moments, I try to impart to my children.
The overall gist? No matter, what you do, I will love and stand by you, because I love you just the way you are. (Thanks, Mr. Rogers!) 🙂
I’ve talked to my children before about self-love. They think it’s hilarious, like I’m actually making a joke. “Love yourself Mama?” they squeal. “You can’t love yourself!” The idea is absurd to them.
I know they’re thinking of the yoga pose they learned from my partner. This pose is one where you hold your leg close to your body. To make the poses child friendly, my partner often adds a bit of a joke to them. In this case, while holding their leg, they say, “I love you, leg!” and laugh uproariously as they lovingly hold their own leg and give it kisses.
I listen to their laughing. I love hearing them laugh.
But I secretly also hope that this message is also sinking in somewhere –
that one day, when they need most consciously to summon that inner love for themselves, they’ll remember.
Now, all this may seem like it has very little to do with my usual topic of making music together in community. But in fact, it has everything to do with it.
Because how we hold each other in community begins with how we hold ourselves.
Today, I recommit to love. I recommit to loving myself as much as I love my children. As much as I love music, as much as I love all the people and things I most dearly love. I recommit to a love that knows no boundary – that spills over to my children, my family, to my work, all of it.
And the next time you feel like you fall short of the person you want to be, I wish the same for you.