Some days my head is full of ideas, things I want to explore, write about, share and talk with others about. Today is one of those days. My mind is messy, my ideas not properly formed. Probably a consequence of a week of illness, which has left me feeling tired, quite a lot out of control, less focussed than I like to be.
But there have also been some moments of bliss – times spent lying under a blanket on the sofa, eating chocolate, surfing the internet, looking for inspiration, new ideas, new perspectives on the world, (and watching old episodes of Gossip Girl on Netflix!) And this TED talk found its way to me:
And to start with, I wasn’t keen on what Shefari Tsabary was saying. It made me a bit uncomfortable, worried me that it was just another stick for parents to beat themselves with (and anyone who’s read any of my other blog posts will know that I already have a collection of these sticks, and don’t need any more to add to my arsenal). But I watched on, feeling slightly cross with her use of brain scans (I’m going to shrink my kids’ brain if I get it “wrong”??!) and slightly overwhelmed by her message/reminder that as parents “few hold a greater power or a more immense responsibility”. I agree wholeheartedly. But that’s some scary shit.
However, it did offer me a new lens to look at my kids through. I was more than familiar with the old adage that you can’t always control how your children are going to behave, but you can control how you respond to it. In my worst perfectionist parenting moments, I can use that message to paralyse myself, thinking that if only I knew the “right” way of responding to, say, a screaming tantrum in Tesco, I’d be able to control the situation. Which, of course, feeds my flawed belief that somewhere out there, the “perfect” mother, who knows all the answers, is getting it “right”. But this talk provided me with a slightly different message.
That as parents, we should pay attention to how our children make us feel.
That how we respond, is not about whether we ignore, reason, or beg when we are challenged by our children’s behaviour, whether we consider ourselves attachment parents, or Gina Ford parents, or subscribe to a particular theory of behaviour change. This is messier, more individual, more unique to the person we are, rather than the group we choose to associate with.
And I’ve been giving it a go. My children have been kind enough to offer me plenty of opportunities to pause and wonder how their challenging behaviour makes me feel. A lot of the time the answer is overwhelmed, vulnerable, tired, especially as I’ve been ill and have had fewer resources to draw on. But there’s something about the process of acknowledging this, silently, in the privacy of my own brain, that is soothing, feels kinder somehow, more honest. This is my experience, no one does that better, more “perfectly” than me. There are no sticks to beat myself with. It’s just my story, where I’m at right now. And here’s the magic bit. Because I’m being kinder to myself, I am being kinder to the children. By acknowledging it inwardly, I’m externalising these feelings a bit less. I am shouting less, enjoying the moment a little more. It’s all a little more harmonious, a little less like survival. It allows for the kids’ flaws, my flaws, our imperfections, my doubts, uncertainties and occasional desperation in the face of their demands.
I like it. I’m going to keep giving it a go, see how it pans out.
Have a watch. Its only 11 minutes of your time. Do you think she’s onto something?
If you like what you read, and know a mother, a parent, carer, human being you think might like it too, please share it with them. Let’s talk about this stuff.