Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Can I be the parent I want to be?

Welcome to the February 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about parenting fears.


Before Ezra was born, I took for granted that being older, I would be a more patient mother. At 34, I was more compassionate than I was in my twenties, and I felt ready for parenthood emotionally. Garry and I anticipated parenting with respect and sensitivity to our son’s needs and read books that fit with this approach: Magda Gerber’s Caring for Infants with Respect, Calm and Compassionate Children: A Handbook by Susan Dermond, Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen as well as books by William and Martha Sears, among others.

I’ve never felt much anxiety over many of the parenting decisions we’ve made – decisions related to working and childcare, feeding, sleeping, and discipline – until recently. Lately it feels like I’m failing more often than I’m succeeding at gently parenting my son. Ezra and I are engaged in a battle of wills over getting dressed, brushing teeth, at mealtimes, and at bedtime. At four, my son is creative and funny, but he’s also headstrong and energetic.

I frequently find myself yelling loudly and angrily and growing so exasperated and frustrated that I feel I must have the emotional intelligence of my four year old. Several times, I have brought myself to tears over my frustration. We are expecting our second child in three months, and I worry any reserves of patience I have will evaporate completely into thin air.

Even more, I worry which memories from Ezra’s fourth year will stand out. Will he remember playing, reading and cooking together, or will he remember raised voices? It’s this fear that is motivating me to look at myself more closely. Ezra’s unwillingness to cooperate with our requests is not unexpected. Our experience in co-op childcare and my participation in a local mom’s group guaranteed that I knew parenting a preschooler, and especially a preschool aged boy, could be difficult. Ezra is developmentally normal, testing boundaries, and exercising his independence just as we anticipated.

I had looked forward to this period of Ezra’s childhood, the time when he’s verbose, uninhibited, and inquisitive. But, I never imagined I would lose my patience with him almost daily. I don’t expect to be a perfect mother – I am human, after all - but my outbursts surprise even me; I am not typically prone to anger. Even while I am uncontrollably angry, I can visualize how I would like to respond to his obstinacy, but I can’t seem to bring those expressions to the surface – only angry, impatient words.

Last night, as I tucked Ezra into bed, he looked into my eyes, kissed me, hugged me and told me he loved me. My son is precious, and I am making a promise to myself and to him, that I will be the parent I want to be. Rather than reacting to him with volatility and anger, I will use the tools at my disposal to respond peacefully with empathy, compassion, playfulness and respect.

*** Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama

Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (list will be final around 5pm PST February 11):
  • When Parents' Fears Escalate — If we didn't self-doubt, we probably wouldn't care enough about our children to struggle with understanding them. But how do we overcome self-doubt? Read advice from Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., guest posting today at Natural Parents Network.
  • What ifs of addiction — After seeing how addictions of adult children is badly hurting a family close to her heart, Hannah at HannahandHorn shares her fears for her own child.
  • Sharing My Joy — Kellie at Our Mindful Life shares her fear that others think she is judgmental because she makes alternative choices for her own family.
  • Building My Tribe Fearlessly — A meteorite hit Jaye Anne at Tribal Mama's family when she was seven years old. Read the story, how she feels about that now, and how she is building her tribe fearlessly.
  • Fear: Realized — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen shares how her fear of car accidents was realized and how she hopes to be able to use her efforts to overcome the remaining fears to help her children overcome their own.
  • I'm a Negligent Helicopter Parent — For Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow, the line between helicopter parenting and negligent parenting is not so cut and dried.
  • My Greatest Fear For My Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama admits that she has struggled with not allowing her fears to control her and how the reality of this was blown wide open when she became a mother.
  • Proactive Steps to Calm Parenting Fears — Every parent has certain fears related to dangerous situations, That Mama Gretchen shares ways she is preparing herself and her children for emergencies.
  • Homeschooling Fears – Will My Children Regret Being Homeschooled? — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares an interview with her now-adult children that answers a question she had throughout their homeschooling.
  • An Uneasy Truce — Homeschooler and recent convert to unschooling, Tam at tinsenpup shares just a few of the things she tries to keep in mind when fear and insecurity begin to take hold.
  • Fearing the worst, expecting the best — Tarana at Sand In My Toes writes about fears that come with parenting, and why we must overcome them.
  • Can I be the parent I want to be? — Amanda at Postilius confronts her struggle to peacefully parent a preschooler
  • Out of Mind, Out of Fear — How does Jorje of Momma Jorje deal with her pretty steep, long-term fears regarding her son's future?
  • I Don't Homeschool to Manage My Kids' Transcripts — One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama's fears of parenting is that she will get so caught up in the monotony, the details of homeschooling, the minutiae of everyday life, the routine of taking care of a household - that she will forget to actually be present in the moment with her children.
  • Beware! Single Mom Camping — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her first adventures as a single mom. She laughed, she cried, she faced her fears.
  • Parenting Fears And Reality Checks — Luschka from Diary of a First Child shares her three biggest fears as a parent - that most parents share - looks at the reality behind these fears, and offers a few suggestions for enjoying parenting.
  • Parenting fear : to kill a pink rabbit...Mother Goutte tells us the story of a pink rabbit that disappeared, came back, and became the symbol of her worst parenting fear...
  • Roamingsustainablemum considers whether allowing your children freedom to explore the world safely is harder now than in the past.
  • Meeting my parenting fears head-on — Lauren at Hobo Mama had many fears before she became a parent. Learn how they all came true — and weren't anywhere near as scary as she'd thought.
  • Don't fear the tears — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger worried that letting her children cry when going to sleep was tantamount to the dreaded parenting moniker, CIO. She discusses what actually happened after those teary nights, and how she hopes these lessons can carry forward to future parenting opportunities.
  • Will I Still be a Good Mom? — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot worries about her mothering skills now that breastfeeding is no longer the top priority.
  • Pregnancy Fears: It Happened to My Sisters, It Will Happen to Me... — Kristen at Baby Giveaways Galore discusses the difficulties with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding that the women in her family have had and how she overcame them.
  • Fears — Meegs at A New Day talks about how her fears before parenting led to a better understanding of herself and her desires for her daughter.


Lauren Wayne said...

I have those same experiences of wondering what my son will remember of his childhood, and hoping it's not as bad as I'm fearing in that moment. The fact that you're aware of the changes you want to make is a huge step in the right direction already. I'd also say, as someone who remembers the daily emotionalism I had during my last pregnancy, to be gentle with yourself as you deal with the upcoming transition to two.

Meegs said...

Seconding Lauren, pregnancy is an emotional time, so be gentle with yourself. Knowing that you want to make certain changes is a great first step. This age isn't easy, but it sounds like your son is happy and thriving.

Anonymous said...

Can I third that? I have had many days (weeks, months) like that over the years and, of course, we always need to try harder to be the parents our children deserve, but we also need to be kind and forgiving towards ourselves, especially when life is making extra demands of us.

Momma Jorje said...

I can SO relate to the attitude toward the 4yo. My daughter, at 4 years old, drives my husband and I insane! Thankfully, we can (at least sometimes) keep each other in check. Screaming seems so counterproductive, but its so hard to stop... even when I can see the better action in my mind.

Tarana Khan said...

Beautifully said! I feel guilty as well when I lose my patience, and try as I might, it does happen. I just make sure that I tell my son I love him afterwards! I think it's impossible to be a 'perfect parent' and as long as we are aware of our shortcomings, we are doing fine.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Preschoolers can be so challenging! When I feel overwhelmed, here are a couple of things that help me: 1) I read the "Your ___ Year Old" series by Louise Bates Ames. Just knowing that my child's behavior is age appropriate helps me be more patient and gentle. 2) I take more time for myself. Sometimes when I'm stressed, it means that I'm not practicing self-care - in my case, that means I need a little time to relax sans kids. I wrote about it more here: http://codenamemama.com/2013/12/05/getting-back-into-my-positive-parenting-groove/ At any rate, good for you for recognizing your anger and for working on it.