Parenthood seems to be a constant cycle of making mistakes, learning from them, making more mistakes, maybe not learning from them as quickly, making more mistakes, wondering if you are permanently fucking up your children, trying to undo the mistakes, then making more in the process.
Ryan and I learned a ton in our counseling sessions a couple of years ago. But one thing…one thing that I learned continues to haunt me.
“Most of all of people’s psychological shortcomings, emotional immaturity, the inability to appropriately handle stressful situations, anger control issues, fears and phobias…they all stem from childhood. Whether it was specific events, household environment, parenting styles that don’t mesh with the personality of the child, abuse…it all goes back to the earliest years of life.”
Her point was made to help us understand that we don’t do the things that anger and frustrate each other on purpose, but rather the ways we act during arguments or when we are under stress tends to be our default setting. So, if we learn how each other work on a psychological level, then we can divert a complete blow up.
However, I tend to take most anything I learn, and see how it applies to all aspects of my life. Call it obsessive compulsive, I call it introspective. There I sat, hearing this information (having had known this for years, but hearing it from a shrink somehow makes it reality) pregnant, and completely terrified that I have already royally messed up Lula, and I will inevitably do the same with Olive.
Every little quirk Lula has, I blamed on some sort of parenting flub. She hates loud noises…to the point she begs for her earphones when Olive cries or I need to vacuum. Must have been those times I lost my cool and yelled at her that caused it. Maybe one of those fights Ryan and I had that didn’t make it behind closed doors was what did it.
She is high-anxiety…quickly loses her cool when things don’t go as she had planned. She can’t handle change or spontaneity well at all. I can see the anxiety in her face, and it breaks my heart every time. Sometimes I wonder why she just isn’t happy. She must get that from me. She can tell I suffer from anxiety and she just feeds off of me. Now she is just a ball of nerves…permanently.
She throws the most amazing fits. Red, pissed, livid. When I have to say “no” to her, I can see it in her face how unbelievably angry she is with me. I have a temper. I go from zero to ten in a matter of seconds. Me. I did this to her.
The amount of guilt that I piled on myself was insane. My anxiety went through the roof as I picked my little girl apart and took responsibility for everything that could be considered a “psychological shortcoming.” I soon realized that by me doing this, I was reverting to my default setting. Taking responsibility for anyone’s unhappiness, anger, stress, frustration…yeah, I do that all the time. I wasn’t letting her just be her. Letting her be her own person. She is her own little human. She isn’t me. We may have a lot in common, but her brain doesn’t work just like mine does. Don’t get me wrong, I am still undoing some obvious mistakes I made with her and continue to make, but I have stopped taking responsibility for everything.
I sat down with a wise mommy friend, and she told me that I am a good parent for even going there in my brain. But, I need to stop. Let it go. I also need to abandon my need to control, surrender to the fact that I will somehow mess her up, and relax. If I relax, everything around me will relax. Just zen the eff out. If I continue to have any expectations of her, any at all, THAT will be the thing that will mess her up. Let her be her. And love her for every little bit of it.
I don’t write this for comments like, “Oh Lindsay, don’t worry, you are an excellent mother.” Though I wouldn’t mind them…
…I write this because I know there are other parents out there stressing their brains out over these same things. I am writing to tell you that you are an excellent parent. You are doing a wonderful job raising and guiding your little humans and they are lucky to have you. And to them…to them you are as wonderful and perfect as you think they are. So let them be free to be who they are. Put some Bob Marley on and zen the eff out. Both you and your children will be better for it.