One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from being a parent is using my willpower to walk the path of humbleness.
Being humble doesn’t come easy to me. It hurts to have to look at yourself honestly and admit you’ve been making things worse. This self reflection doesn’t come from a place of judgement or being self-critical. It isn’t about feeling guilty, although that is a very easy place to get stuck for me. Maybe this doesn’t come easy to me because I don’t like feeling incapable or inept. I know I don’t like feeling like I’ve caused emotional damage. It’s much easier to not look in the mirror and just keep doing what you’ve been doing.
But easier isn’t always the right path. Sometimes we must use our will power to ignore our ego and turn the light on so we can properly look in the mirror.
I’ve been struggling so much with my older two children. There has been a lot of conflict between them and some between me and them as well. Self-reflection isn’t something I enjoy doing, but the fact is if I want to help us move past this, it is a necessity. No, I’m not responsible for their choices , words or actions. But, I’m responsible for my words and actions and I cannot deny that how I act affects not only the situation, but the whole family. In fact, the only person I can control is me.
So I’m doing what doesn’t come natural to me, and what hurts to do, and that is self-reflection and being humble and willing to learn and change my own approach.
I’ve had this book in my stack of to-read books for a while and just haven’t gotten to it. If I’m honest, I will admit that I’ve been putting off reading it because I knew it would make me have to face mistakes I’ve been making, and that’s uncomfortable. I’d rather avoid that. But the time has come to face that feeling and be humble and willing to be open to growing.
One practice that gets me through these uncomfortable growing pains is self-compassion. Being kind to myself and talking to myself the way I’d talk to a friend in my shoes. It is what helped to pull me out of some very dark times in parenting a number of years ago.
Parenting never is dull. There are always opportunities to know ourselves more and grow.
We were down one child today, as my teen was out of town at a concert. It was still very much a Monday, though. Here is our day in pictures. I’ll be writing a follow up post, that’s more reflective.
Copy and verse memorizing work.
Fourth grader knitting. He’s making a sweater for his little brother.
Painting from a Norse story with my fourth grader. He wanted to use paper that would fit in his main lesson book.
Painting with my first grader. I accidentally grabbed the wrong red and we leaned first hand why we need the circle colors. 😂 Carmine red doesn’t quite mix the same way with yellow. You can see my prop painting above, with a lovely golden color for the goose. But we made it work.
I had to snap a picture of my toddler. He always wants to paint with us, but what a mess still! This photo was after he’d dumped the tiny bit of rinse water I’d given him. But the pleasure is in the process and I know it’s good for him to experience painting.
Yesterday we started out our day at home, like usual, but things didn’t go as planned. Against my better judgement, my teen had been out late three nights in a row, which meant he was exhausted. This led to an atypical morning and I accepted that he likely wouldn’t be getting any school work done before we had to run off to play practice at 11:30. When the time came to leave, I’d finished my first grader’s work but not yet main lesson for my fourth grader. I saw it was a gorgeous sunny day, so we packed up our things and took to the park.
We are in the middle of a Norse mythology block. Yesterday we discussed Loki’s story and painted from it.
This morning I managed to quietly get out of bed before the toddler and had the house to myself while I did a quick tabata. I took the trash out to the curb and got to see the full moon and the sunrise.
When I woke at 4 am this morning, I woke with a sudden word in my head: control. This is the problem for my teen. He feels like I’m trying to control him. We’ve been having huge struggles with him lately. I mean, to keep it in context, I know it isn’t that bad. He still wakes up every morning and comes to me for a hug; he’s not drinking or doing drugs; he’s not sneaking out at night, etc. But we’ve been having big struggles with finding balance between freedom and responsibility. He’s such a different person that I am, that I find it leads me to loose my patience with him and fall into old habits of exerting control, which in turn just make him buck more wildly.
So, back to this word that came to me. I realized suddenly that I need to stop trying to exert my force on him, because when he feels like he isn’t in control of his own life, it just makes things worse.
Parenting pushes and stretches me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I know people think I have it all together but I mess up so often. I suppose that’s all we can do. Mess up, dust off, make amends and go forward.
Sometimes the path is hard. It feels hard to put one foot in front of the other. The bushes along the path scratch up your arms and legs. You stumble and trip on the rocks on the path. You fall down and cry. You sit in the middle of the path, sobbing.
You also know that you must go on. You know that the path won’t always be so difficult and you must put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward, even if you don’t progress for a while because you keep backtracking to see what exactly led you to this hard path. In the end, you’ll get there.
My planning is done. Everything is tidy. Our first day of school begins today. Grades 1, 4, and 10.
Last night was very hard. Parenting teenagers is not for the faint of heart. My first reaction is to cancel today and feel angry and sad about my plans being derailed. But I know my other children would be so upset to not begin, they are so looking forward to today. And I don’t want to wear the martyr hat. So, I remember I’m the captain of the boat and I put one foot in front of the other and navigate into unknown territory. I let go of expectations and just jump in and see where it goes.
I’m sure tonight I’ll post plenty of pretty pictures that will make some out there feel less-than or jealous that I have it all together. This is why I’m sharing this blog post. I think sharing our struggles, the truth behind the pretty pictures, is a gift to others. We are all human. We all have our struggles and fall down on our face sometimes. It’s easy to pretend it’s all roses with the internet. But the truth is: life is hard sometimes. Parenting is hard sometimes. Mothering can sometimes makes you feel like your heart has been ripped out. We must endure and push forward. Feel it all, give ourselves a hug and keep putting our feet down for the next step. That’s all there is to do.
I haven’t blogged in nearly two months. It has been a time of adjustment and reflection. There have been some bumpy days (weeks?) and I’ve had to do lots of inner work and refining my own habits to find a sweet spot again. I’m getting there.
I’ve joked half seriously that I should start a blog called ‘Things My Kids Tell Me’. Not with the purpose of complaining or making jokes, but so that other moms out there don’t feel alone in their struggles. It can feel so isolating and depressing to think to yourself that the (unkind) things your child says couldn’t possibly be said by other kids, because no one you know has ever shared such things. I mean, we don’t really talk about it. Social media is full of the edited happy moments and lots of happy faces. But that’s not real life. And no matter how amazing you are as a mother, it is no insurance against your child saying hurtful things to you. Because what comes out of their mouth is a reflection about what is going on within them. I’ve found again and again how powerful it is to speak up and share with friends what happens within my house. It is sure scary to be vulnerable in that way, but I’ve found again and again that it not only is healing and helpful for me to share but that other mothers then feel less alone. Mothers then open up to me about the things that go on in their homes and how they’ve struggled. Our culture doesn’t do vulnerability very well. So, it takes intention and practice.
In our house, we’ve been in the thick of the 9 year change. I think we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but that light is still a far way off yet, truth be told. I’m remembering how absolutely vital the inner work piece is and how making time for mediation and mindfulness and fun are is not optional. It is necessity. I’m reminded again and again that the only thing I can be in control of is how I react. So, I’m in charge of me, and that’s my main job as a parent.
I have taken some photos here and there of our homeschooling and life. Things are moving along nicely and we are settling into a workable rhythm. Lots of grace is given, daily. Grace, flexibility and self-compassion. Those are my tools lately.