If you’re not familiar with hashtag culture, this is code for “something good happened with the kids”. It could mean the toddler finally slept through the night, siblings acted as if they really like each other, or something as simple as nobody-threw-up-today.
The expression isn’t really about setting goals; it’s more about living in the moment and accepting that reality is just… reality. Being a parent necessitates letting go of ideals and learning to work with the screaming children in the room. Whether you spent your whole life planning to raise a family or if it’s something that just happened, the truth remains.
Breathe. Love. Guide.
Having just spent a long weekend with the family, taking little time for self-care or hobbies (like this blog), I’m more than a bit worn out. Overwhelmed by sibling rivalries and Henrik responding to everything with “but I want…” I can lose sight of who I am so easily.
Not who I am as an individual, but who I am to him, and to his brother. What is my role in their lives, beyond feeding and providing for them? How can I help them navigate the emotions they are feeling today, or worse, the emotions they will face in another ten years?
I need to do three simple things.
If you don’t breathe, you’ll never calm down. I’ve said those words countless times to our 4-year-old as he sniffles and chokes while crying his soul out. Yet when I’m the one frustrated or upset, I rarely remember to say it to myself.
No matter what is happening, the first thing I must always do is breathe. I can’t help the boys if I’m tense. Breathing helps me calm down, focus and think clearly about the situation at hand.
I also often remind our boys about love, asking them how they feel, about each other, mommy or daddy, any family member. Emotions are powerful, and the only way to stop negative emotions from taking root is to fill every bad moment with love.
This isn’t easy. I’ve had a short temper ever since I was a child, so problems usually bring out the worst version of myself. The times I do better, however, are when I remember to love first, then speak. Only then can my words provide any healing for the situation.
Finally, I must be a guide. I’ve always felt that I’m a horrible teacher, that my personality is not well suited to teaching others, but that’s exactly what our children need. Our boys are looking at me while trying to figure out their own place in the world, so I must be encouraging and helpful.
I’m not here to solve the problem for them, to be the judge and say who is right or wrong, whose turn it is with the toy they both want right now. My role is to guide them in how to handle the situation and the emotions they are feeling so that they can learn how to better express themselves while listening to the other person.
If I really had any goals for parenting it would be remembering these three simple steps. I often feel hopeless, scared, frustrated, angry, and it’s hard to be the adult in the room when what I really need is a little time alone.
But I only need to listen to One Bad Mother to realize that I’m not the only one struggling. It’s not just hard for me… it’s just hard.
Fortunately there is joy woven in every moment, happiness in every day, and bad memories fade while the good remain.
And I think that’s what most people are getting at when they tag a photo #parentinggoals. They’re saying “This is something I want to remember. This is something good.”