By Carolyn Riker
I aim to be a good parent but there are days, I am frustrated and fail.
There isn’t a handbook. Vacations are few. Summer days are endless.
Being a parent is stressful as it is rewarding. Most days are incredible. We hum well together.
However, I’ve noticed there is an undercurrent and an elephant in the room. It is those particular days and weeks and months when my thoughts spin to the left.
I become resentful and feel bad at the endless interruptions, demands and questions. I get tired of sifting through the barrage of normal adolescent indecisive, dramatic, complaining, egocentric, confrontational, challenging, sullen, moody and hormonal outbursts.
Which, I am also navigating on an adult spectrum; with the added financial worries, keeping everyone safe, being responsible and hopefully instilling some life values and truths.
I am not surprised now at what happened. Hindsight has a vibe of C’est la vie!
Nevertheless, something inside of me snapped.
It wasn’t one thing that set me off, it was a brewing catastrophe.
The snarky attitudes. The steady interruptions. My own internal need for quiet was being disregarded and not respected.
The words that spilled out of me were copious. I couldn’t stop at one sentence. Logic was gone. The spreadsheets in my mind became a scattered array of crap. The ordinary burn in my shoulders, became a torch of flames.
My mouth was a wide open sea heaving a storm of pent up shit—about everything.
The red hot magma funneled through me at such a speed, I became dizzy. The edges of the room darkened until I lost what I was even angry about. It wasn’t just about the moment; it was circumstances merging from a dark space of not being heard. My rage was on a cellular level.
Hot tears started to burn and I let them release.
I climbed to the top of my sniffling, snotty-nosed, red-eyed tissue mountain and sat in a terrible space of critical self-loathing.
I had to fight with a zillion thoughts. The inner critics screamed at me: “I was the worse parent-person-being, ever.”
“She is not.” I repeated.
“Leave her alone.
She’s tired and overwhelmed.
Give her room to breathe.”
This dialogue volleyed for quite a while. Stich by stich, curse by curse, fragment by fragment until days later, I accepted a tiny refrain of, “It’s going to be okay. I am not a piece of shit. And everyone has bad days. Anger is normal and actually very powerful.”
I had to unweave those negative critical voices for days.
It took time. For each, “I am horrible and wrong” I had to fight and say, “Stop! I don’t believe the lies about me.”
It is and was a difficult process and I will need to continue to undo what I’ve learned from the past.
The golden ratio of it all is this, those critical voices taught me to stand up for my self-worth.
I was reminded, I can’t fix everything and that’s okay. I don’t have to be on steady alert and almost always trying to divert any and all conflict.
I asked myself, “What if I let the conflicts manifest and see where they go? What if I didn’t quickly fix situation even before problems occur? I am often afraid of what-ifs that may never happen. What if I let problems come up and naturally resolve?”
My kids are wise and will learn much more if I stop being the relentless buffer. It’s not needed. They are not under attack from my ghosts.
Learning to resolve conflict is an important strategy.
I am human and I do fail. I am sorry for the words I spewed and I told them. I don’t have all the answers. I hope through my mistakes, I am teaching them we can’t be everything for everyone.
In retrospect, I’m glad I had a breakthrough and the opportunity to express my angry; it taught me to see differently.
Maybe my kids poking and prodding was actually an excellent catalyst. Instead of my usual get quieter and retreat, I came out of my cave and roared. By voicing, “No More! I’ve had enough!” I was inadvertently asking for the same respect I give them.
And, it’s okay for them to see me upset. It’s actually wonderful.
It gives them permission to express the gamut of emotions we all are privy to.
Editor: Dana Gornall