Monday, May 3, 2021

Mommy tales: Stop Crying, and other lies I told myself about child emotions

Saturday, Dean was crying. A. Lot. It is actually quite typical. I get it. 

I am emotional. I remember being young and my dad saying, “Stop crying!” I was often called cry baby by family and peers. 

It wasn't until the last couple of years that I have really embraced this about myself. Now, crying is a gift. It is something I am proud of. 

My dad once shared a seminary lesson he taught, where at the time, people carried vials around their necks to collect their tears because those tears were considered more than gold and were also thought to have healing powers. (I just did some research on this and even though there is historical debunking of this happening right now, I like it anyway. If you are interested in knowing more about these “tear bottles” read this article about lachrymatory tear bottles.)

This story was important to me at the time, because instead of apologizing for crying, I gave myself permission to embrace it. Embracing this emotion has been so powerful for me to feel deeply and love that about myself. Whenever I am with students, I also give them permission to cry, and share that story my dad shared with me. I want to create that safe space for them. Crying is freeing and healing.

So then why on this good earth would I become one of those parents constantly trying to 'check' Dean’s emotions at the door? Why did I become one of those parents to shout, “Stop crying!”

It was easy to justify. I would tell myself:

  • It isn't that he is crying, it is the volume of his crying. So I tried to tell him to limit the volume

  • I have also asked him to go to the other room, so that way, he could be as loud as he wanted as long as it wasn't in front of me or others

  • I also thought, but his crying IS SO much. He cries over everything, especially when he gets wet with drinking water - he has no problem jumping in a river or lake with all his clothes….but the minute he spills, game over.

I have had well intentioned moms talk to me about raising brave and courageous kids and who have recommended books for me to read to be better at rearing emotional children, all of this while trying to comfort and soothe a crying child.

But while Dean was again crying for the 4th time in an hour at a birthday party, I decided I wasn't going to say or do anything. I got into the headspace of trying to help him through his emotions based on all those parenting books and things that I saw other moms doing.

And you know what….that is a crummy space to be. To be in my kids space all. the. time. trying to tell him how to live? 

Sure, there are times for interference and teaching moments, but wow...I became a micromanager mom in order to somehow understand how to parent. I thought if I could know different techniques for parenting or learn how others do it, I would be better, he would be ‘better’. I would say the right things and raise amazing properly "emotioned" kids. 

But you know something: My kids are freaking amazing!! They came that way.

You know something else: I am freaking amazing too.

So, here is what I am going to do:

  • Realize I am doing my best, and my best is good enough for my kids

  • Embrace that I am emotional, and that doesn’t make me weak therefore: my children are emotional, and that doesn’t make them weak

  • Re-evaluate that I don’t care if others see my kids as cry babies, I will NOT view them that way and teach them the beauty in this form of expression

  • Recognize that people are all well-intentioned and that is ok, I will be choosy with which advice to take and not fault others for wanting to be helpful

  • Check-in with God on a regular basis to make sure I am understanding where I need to teach and where to step back

  • Demonstrate LOVE to my kids instead of micromanaging them

  • Maintain a realistic perspective that even though I have embraced these thoughts, recognize that I am human and will still probably say, “Stop crying” but not beat myself up if I mess up

  • Ask my kids more about why they are feeling those feels in order to help them communicate why they are feeling these deep emotions - because communication is beautiful

  • Stop falling in the trap of teaching my kids to not have and/or express emotion

  • Be better at asking, “What do you need mommy to do” when they come to me in safety - and let them take the lead on my involvement

  • Teach where I need to, but not make it my life’s mission to make every moment a teaching moment

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Single Mom Journal: They Made the Beds

Yesterday I walked in my home and smelled the lemon burst of my Swiffer cleaning wipes. I walked around my home (a place I typically dread coming home to because it stresses me out) with an overwhelming sense of peace. I noticed little things: my computer in a different location, the small used rags gone off the counter top, the toys picked up and put in the bin on our main floor. Then, I walked upstairs. The laundry I had put out for folding was folded so beautifully and neatly. 

But as I rounded the corner, I saw that my boys beds had been beautifully made in a clean, crisp room. That is when I fell to my knees and cried. I cried loudly. It was the kind of crying that is beautiful and deep. My reaction was unanticipated. I knew I would be grateful, yes.....but not like this. The sound came from my stomach and filled the room with moaning that could have been mistaken for pain - and it was somewhat. 

While another person may have stifled their cries, I did not hold back. I let it out. It was freeing, as if I had been holding my emotion captive. It was messy. It was raw. It was real. I was letting go of a pain that only I (and Jesus) could understand

Being a single mom is hard. I don't say this for sympathy, I am saying it because it is true. I knew it would be hard, but I didn't know how it would be hard. I feel like I am constantly battling time. I work 3 jobs and get to spend 3 waking hours, sometimes 4 (if I let the littles stay up) with my kids. And when I am with them, I am making dinner, giving baths, and I often feel like I have very little time to connect. They feel it. I feel it. Then I find when I do have more time with them, I don't know what to do.

It has been very difficult for me to shove aside the guilt that comes from my decisions. All. The. Time. But I do my best to shove this away, give it to God, process my role(s)... all the things. And so, I am spinning a lot of plates (taken from an analogy that Elder Bednar gave once). 

I constantly prioritize and re-prioritize. Some days there are certain things/activities/motivations that lead out and sometimes there are others. It doesn't look the same day-to-day.

I have gracious and well intended people tell me that I can leave dishes in the sink, or not clean my house, or put off those things that aren't priorities. And while I know they mean well....I hate going home when I follow that advice. 

You see, all those things that I would put off still pile and pile and pile on top of each other. And while it may have meant that I spent more connected time with my kids instead of cleaning my house, I get cranky, because now I have to spend an entire Saturday and Sunday cleaning. Then I think - little bits at a time, right? But those little bits don't happen in a lively household either. Overall, my littles don't have my full attention because my list in my head would grow and grow - of all the things I had to do. Putting it off has the opposite effect for me.

I was thinking about posting on social media about needing help cleaning my house. But I found every reason not to. 

  • It is COVID - who wants to expose themselves to our germs? 
  • It isn't right to ask so much of someone - I should pay them, but I just quit job 2 and job 3 so I wouldn't have that stress, how will I pay them? How much should I pay them? 
  • Should this be service? No, it is too much for it to be service.
  • I am tired of being the person that everyone else is serving all the time....when can I pitch in to serve them?
  • Who do I trust in this very intimate and safe place I have tried to create for my little family? 
  • I can do it...I just need to schedule the time instead of binging Netflix after my kids go down after 10 p.m. every night even though my job 2 and 3 are supposed to happen during those hours.
  • I can clean when their dad has them, instead of doing the self-care that I really don't need, right?

The battle is hard and real, so much so that I end up feeling defeated in my thoughts, and never follow through with it. I never really pray about it either. I don't feel like I should. It is just so silly - not being able to manage a home....that isn't very self-reliant. 

I thought about "The Secret" and thought I would tell some people about how I was feeling, just to open it up to the Universe. And while well-intentioned, I stumbled on advice giving, but found that what I need is someone in my life to take action because I often can't muster it. The battle with myself leaves me so wounded, without a lot to keep me going. In some silly way, I felt the responses were the universe's way of telling me I was asking too much - so I stopped asking.

But then, I mentioned something last week to a good friend. This friend had the drive and initiative to figure out all the details for me, and arranged to have the service missionaries come twice a week to help me. All I had to do was leave minimal instruction.

The note I found on my counter went something like: Thank you for letting us come to clean your beautiful home. We hope you have what you need to relax and be with your family. We will back on Friday.

I am still tearing up thinking about how having this relief has meant the world to me. I am so grateful. I know I have a lot to work on with self-compassion, but while I am battling that, it has been so amazing to me to see all the people in my corner.

People are amazing and God is SO SO SO good.