I really do believe that there's so much about parenthood that's not understood until you're in the trenches. A dog is a fabulous trainer for parenting. I know for me, it was an experience to learn to put the need of a little precious and innocent canine above my own. Bonding came from the tough things--like potty-training that seemed unending and nighttime walks at 3:30am for the first few months of puppyhood--because it was what he needed, and those needs of his became more important than my need for sleep.
And then enter kids. Whoa Nellie. What a way to rock a world and change you to the core. I am truly a changed woman and glaring evidence presented itself today in the form of a call from Elliott's school.
I received a call informing me that Elliott had fallen backward off of a swing, bumping the back of her head. Now at first, I thought, you know, it's nice to be informed but I opted to just assume that things were fine and leave Elliott at school because, well, if she learns that her Mom will come whenever an injury occurs, I have a feeling a habit will very quickly follow. Something along the lines of a little boy who cried wolf.
But when I hung up the phone, the tears and self-doubt got the better of me. I texted my husband, looking for a reassuring "you know she's fine", but he was in the midst of a meeting so the affirmation didn't come immediately. So I sobbed a bit, feeling stuck in the thick of some grand parenting dilemma. First, she needs to learn that not every injury is a big deal and needs to be able to find comfort independently and learn to count on the others who are around her for support. And she has a wonderful support group where she is--and learning to depend on them will serve her well in her confidence of being away from me. On the other hand, what if something truly is wrong and she has a concussion and I just blew it off and I'm a terrible mother?
Needless to say, I was quite worked up. I saw myself in the mirror, and said out loud, "You're not even the one who got hurt!" And consequently, I thought, all of this ridiculousness needs to be shared. And it needs a good illustration. So I took a quick photo of my red-faced puffy-eyed exhausted self. This, my friends, is why I don't even bother wearing make-up.
Now, I'm not a Mom who jumps up immediately when one of my kiddos gets hurt--it's not that I don't want to--I've just learned along the way that my reaction has a lot of bearing on their own reaction. That's no grand secret to parents. So, maybe I might even seem unsympathetic at times, which may be true.
But this time, I realized that the dilemma I faced had more to do with confidence as a parent. Or, rather, lack of confidence. I move fearlessly forward on the outside, but inside I'm quivering and letting self-doubt reign. So many times when I make a choice, set a standard, make a demand or have to punish, the little voices eat at me telling me I'm "doing it wrong". Sometimes the voices say I'm not tough enough--sometimes they tell me I'm too tough. So much of modern wisdom tells us that we're psychologically damaging our children at every turn. There are lists on Pinterest of things you should never say to your child, lists of the "proper" way to praise, and doggonit even though Freud is highly criticized, I still think about how every problem later in life can be traced back to the mother.
Parenthood is riddled with crippling doubt and insecurity. And that's something I never expected. I also never expected the swelling love-you-so-much-it-hurts feelings. And when you mix all that together, it's...exhausting.
In the end, everything I do is for the betterment of my children. Every rule I set, choice I make, stand I take--it's to get them where they need to be as productive and independent human beings. So, today I share and write. Jumping up and getting Elliott and bringing her home wasn't the answer today--all signs pointed to the fact that she'd be perfectly fine. Letting her "be" and letting out a sigh of relief and sharing my joys and frustrations as a mother seemed to be the route to go.
I can do this. Phillipians 4:13.