Parenting and Mental Gymnastics

by Ginger on April 25, 2014

in Mom Thoughts, The Kid

Parenting is weird. I’ve said some variation of that before, I’m sure, but it’s no less true just because I’m repeating myself.

There are days when the kid drives me insane. He’s extremely emotional over EVERYTHING lately, so we have lots of outbursts, tears, yelling, etc. happening. Some of it is when he’s mad, some when he’s upset, some when he’s not feeling well. I know that it’s part of his development to learn to feel his emotions, and then to learn to control them, but sometimes it’s just exhausting. This morning, he was crying when he came into our room, saying he didn’t want me to take a shower or get ready. Sobbing, as if it was the end of the world that I had to get ready for work. Finally after talking to him a bit, it came out that he had a really scary dream last night. Once I was able to get him to tell me about the dream, he was like a different kid–calm, joking around, fun. He was scared and upset when he woke up, but didn’t know how to say that, or to say that he wanted me to stay with him to comfort him, so instead he LOST HIS MIND about me taking a shower. He still needs our help sometimes with connecting those dots, and we need to help him realize when he’s upset about thing A, not thing B that he’s freaking out about. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not exhausting for me to spend my first 2o minutes of the day figuring out the why and how of his emotional breakdown.  Or to spend the first 20 minutes of my day in someone else’s emotional whirlwind, aimed at me.

That’s where some of the weird comes in, in that split between what’s good for him and what’s good for me. There are two halves of me sometimes: there’s the half that will do anything for this kid and knows I have to help him learn this stuff and will try to work through these things with him with compassion and kindness, and then there’s the half that just wants to go “get it together kid, Mommy has to get ready for work. And plus also, I’m tired of being the thing that all your sound and fury slams up against, even if it’s just auditory assault.”

Other times, the kid is a delight. He was so adorable at Easter for example. He wanted to leave carrots out for the Easter Bunny, and he was so excited about his egg hunt, and it was one of those delightful “this is the fun part of having a kid” days. The night before, we went to hang out with some neighbors at the end of the street, and their little girl fell down and he went to her and gave her a hug and held her hand and asked if she was ok. Then he wanted to give her a bandaid, “to make her feel better, and do we have any princess bandaids, because I think she’d like that.” (Little ladies man. Later that night, the little girl came up and said, “Jackson, maybe you could invite me to your house?” and her parents and NC and I all gave each other the side-eye and a laugh–which is part of how we know we get along with those parents, because we were all having the same “slow your roll” thoughts and commenting under our breath). He says these wonderful things sometimes, like, “Oh Mommy, look at how BEAUTIFUL the sky is!” or “Mommy, did you know we need oxygen to breathe?” and I just am so glad to get to experience his joy and wonder and laughter and excitement. I see him growing up, and it’s amazing and wonderful and so cool. It’s strange to watch him becoming this PERSON, with, like, opinions and attitude and ideas all his own. So cool, but also so strange.

I’m trying to not put too many of my expectations on him for what kind of kid/person he’ll become. Before I had him, it was easier to say “oh, I hope my kid does X” or “I hope my kid likes Y” or “I hope my kid isn’t into Z.” But now that he is here, and he’s his own person, I’m just intrigued to see who he’s going to be. I get hints sometimes, but he’s like this fuzzy picture that hasn’t come into focus yet, and no matter how hard I squint, I can’t quite make out the full image. So I try to stop squinting, and just let the picture develop as it does.

That doesn’t mean I’m not totally jazzed when he does something that I’m excited about. I’ve always wanted a kid who was into reading—as a lifelong bookworm, it’s kind of my one “I really hope my kid does this” kind of thing—and while I don’t know how long it will last, for now he’s totally into books, and trying to read. This video (which is really long, just a warning), is something I’ll always cherish for just that reason.

It’s hard, though, to not try to push him in certain ways. Especially when he’s wearing me down on the emotional front, it’s hard to not just think to myself “oh man, why can’t you just be more X”, where X is whatever will make MY life easier at the moment. That self control is something that gets tested daily as a parent, and something I can see getting harder, not easier, as he gets older. It’s my job to teach him certain ways of being a functioning member of society, but it’s not my job, or my place, to make him be a certain kind of person, with certain kinds of likes and dislikes. It’s hard to let that just be sometimes.

I don’t know, some days, that I’m cut out for the mental gymnastics that being a parent requires sometimes. The stretching to remember he’s only a kid, the leaning to keep in mind that he’s not a clone of me or my reactions, the backflips to let him experience his world without my telling him how he should be doing it, the cartwheels to maintain my restraint, and self-control, and my own emotions. I’m not always a good gymnast. (This metaphor got weird, but I’m clearly going with it.). All I can do is keep working at it.

Practice makes perfect. Or at least closer.


Leah, agirlandaboy (@agirlandaboy) April 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I nodded along to every single word of this. Nail, meet head.

Erica April 25, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Well said.

melanie jean juneau April 25, 2014 at 3:37 pm

no matter how we mess up, our kids still love us.. it is amazing really my best advice? laugh.. laugh at yourself, at your son, at life because it cuts through all tension and puts everything into perspective..this too will pass

Older mom April 26, 2014 at 6:19 am

Ditto what Leah said. Thanks for the look back.

Michelle April 28, 2014 at 8:37 am

Yes, to all of this. So many times I have to stop myself from snapping at the girls for the emotional meltdowns and realize that they don’t know how to process their feelings (but hot damn it would be a lot easier if they could.)

Ana May 1, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I totally could’ve written every word of this. I like the insight about feeling assaulted by their emotions, I feel battered and bruised sometimes (sometimes quite literally, my boys also like to hit and kick me)

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