I am reading a book called Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting that promises (you guessed it!) strategies to be a calmer, easier, happier parent. Who doesn’t want that?! But it’s made me think about emotional authenticity, and how we teach it to our children… And ourselves.
Particularly, how we react when they are being little sh1ts. This book – and most other things I’ve read about parenting – suggest staying calm in the face of little terrors, and smiling through tantrums / shouting / rude behaviour. And while I can see some logic in that – you can’t stoop to their level, and shouting back certainly won’t help anything – I question smiling through it. The author of this book actually suggests smiling more at your kids, even if it’s through gritted teeth.
How is that teaching them about how to process emotion properly? I think it’s really important that kids know what behaviour is acceptable and what isn’t – and what better way to show them than by your reaction? Smiling and staying calm while they’re shouting sends the signal that that is acceptable behaviour. Staying calm but being stern is much more effective, I think.
This has all been swirling around in my mind because I’ve been thinking, lately, about how being a mom shines such a light on who I am as a person. It’s really quite uncomfortable. Parenting forces me into the present moment over and over again, and while that’s really good for me, I know, it does mean I don’t have time to formulate responses to things, because it’s all happening right. this. very. second.
So I see a side of myself I may not have glimpsed much if I didn’t have kids, and it gives me a whole lot to think about and work on.
On the other hand, I have discovered depths of patience I never knew I had, and if there’s anything designed to strip away layers of unnecessary fakery, motherhood is it. I used to always project a cheerful facade, no matter how I really felt. But the combination of sleep deprivation and sheer intensity of being on duty all day every day has burnt that away entirely. I’m now very, very comfortable being very, very honest about how things are going. Because it’s all swings and roundabouts anyway – one thing will be easy for me and hard for another mom, something else will have me pulling my hair out and she’ll breeze through it. There’s no point comparing because there’s no finish line.
What there is, though, is the opportunity to connect: really, authentically, meaningfully connect with other people who know exactly what it’s like. And that is worth taking off any mask, I think. I only hope I can pass on some of the many lessons I am being taught (every single bloody day).