There was a week this past October that was particularly shitty for me. First, my husband had a seizure while jogging. A few days later, my grandmother died. Notwithstanding these events, I was holding it together surprisingly well.
Then, two days later, I got a call from my kids' school. Casey, my 5 year old, had bitten a classmate. And with that, I went over the edge. The tears, the exhaustion, it all caught up with me.
I picked Casey and his big brother Braden up from school that afternoon and I was forcing myself to be calm. Casey happily skipped into the car, finding it shockingly easy to forget the day's events, which included a talking to in the principal's office.
Once the boys had secured their seat belts, I pulled over in the school parking lot. Casey, I said, Do you have something to tell me?
Casey lowered his head and confessed. I proceeded to calmly spell out his consequences - how he would be getting no dessert, no iPad privileges, no TV shows, and how he could never, ever, ever do this again, and how he needs to use his words, and blah blah blah, and all of a sudden I hear crying coming from the backseat and I look back, and it's not Casey. It's Braden. The 7 year old. Who has nothing to do with this incident.
Stop being mean to Casey! Braden yelled. You're such a mean mommy.
Yeah, you are a mean mommy! Casey echoed.
The insults were flung at me like a chorus - loud and with resolve. I can't exactly recall what was said, because at a point I stopped listening. I was about to defend myself - to put my kids back in their place, to yell at them at the preposterousness of the fact that I was the one who was the bad guy in this scenario, but I couldn't summon the energy. I was done. Done. Done. Done with my week. Done with my kids. Done with managing the day to day.
When I arrived home I did the bare minimum to ensure the children survived, and I called and informed my husband that he needed to come home early, because I was hanging on by a thin thread. I took an uber to my friend's house and we sat around in pajamas drinking martinis. And I felt a bit better. But that night, I decided to throw my hands in the air and admit that I was not handling everything so well. There was just too much, so much. And I needed help.
Because really, this wasn't the first time I'd kind of lost my shit. It's happening more and more. With multiple school pick ups and vomiting kids and medical scares and car malfunctions and random deadlines and meltdowns all the crap that happens when your a mom with young kids. Life happens. And I can't just be done (and escape to a friend's house to drink martinis - as nice as that was) every time it does.
So I threw out the rope and I hired a parent coach.
When I say parent coach, perhaps you are thinking of Supernanny - you know, that woman with the English accent that goes into the homes of wretched children and brings order and calm to them and their clueless parents.
Not judging, just not for me.
Instead, Meghan, my parent coach, does Skype sessions. With just me - she never meets the children. She listens. She thinks. She doesn't pass judgment. And she gives frank advice. In fact, one of the best pieces of advice that she has given to me with regard to my oldest child is to just "shut up." Without getting into the details, she was exactly right. I do need to shut up. And do a bunch of other things the opposite of which I have been doing.
Here's the thing. I am a seasoned parent of three kids. I look the part and I host playdates and volunteer at the school and I try to make sure my kids' hair is brushed. Maybe you would look at me and think I have my shit together. But in all honesty, I have no idea what I am doing. I am at my best completely overwhelmed, and at my worst completely exasperated. I spend most of the time stabbing in the dark, trying to parent the best I can and hoping that the fact that I love my kids more than anything will be enough.
But the fact is, it isn't enough. I can love them with every ounce of my being, but it doesn't give me the expertise on how to discipline my kids in effective ways. On how to stop yelling. On how to actually enforce the loose rules on screen time. On what to say when they tell me that someone has been mean to them at school. On how much space to give them to allow them to grow, but also how to stay close without smothering them. On how to best meet their vastly differing needs. On how to still take care of myself.
When I was a lawyer, I would never have gone into a case cold. I would have researched. I would have sought advice. Retained experts. Done my due diligence.
In parenting there aren't any concrete answers like there are in the legal profession. But there is guidance. And there is expertise. And help. And if there's one thing I've learned in my 7 years as a parent, it's to be humble, and ask for help when I need it. The saying "it takes a village" really is true. Because if we're honest, none of us know what we are doing. And there is definitely strength in numbers.
For 2016, I'm going to work a bit harder on becoming a better parent, and it goes beyond just hiring a parent coach. I want to be cognizant of the fact that I need to work on my parenting - every day, in small steps. I'm going to humbly reach out to the experts, to friends, to anyone that will listen with an open mind. I'm going to try to breathe a bit more and stress a bit less. And I'm going to try really hard to be a bit more forgiving, both to my kids and to myself.
Because this parenting thing is hard, yo.
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