Fridays and Saturdays are my favorite days of the week…but not for the reason you’re likely thinking. Sure, working a typical work schedule, these would be wind down days, which would be something to eagerly anticipate. But for me, these are my wind UP days!
Fridays, I comb through the books I’m reading with my book clubs, looking for questions and insights to highlight for my fellow readers. I write up a RIE Win of the Week and pull articles and podcasts to read and think about for Saturday. Saturdays, I prepare myself to for Zoom calls for people who want to check in, teach a RIE in the Wild class, and then read, listen…and most critically write my weekly piece.
I love every moment of those days. I have purpose which gives me focus, and I feel productive.
Not this week.
Friday, I was flighty. Fidgety. I kept picking up my books and putting them back down. Opening tab after tab, but not focusing. Today, the same energy is creeping into my day. RIE in the Wild kept me present, but on my own, I’m kind of a mess.
I couldn’t understand it until I was breaking down what a hard week this has been for me while texting with a friend. I won’t get into the specifics, but when I put it all down in black and white, no wonder I’m scattered.
But how often do we put it all down? How often do we acknowledge that even during good weeks, we’re still living in unprecedented and challenging times? I mean…I’m sitting in front of my computer right now instead of on the floor at BINI Birth. When I do see people, I keep carefully back, behind my mask, and apply copious amounts of hand sanitizer. I feel distinctly icky if I haven’t washed my hands in the last 60 minutes and am becoming more of a hermit with each passing day.
But it’s not all bad! Not at all! There are so many gifts these last 50 weeks have given me…I found my writing voice again. I am reaching more folks than ever before with my website. I’m reading and learning and growing. My husband is around so much more because he’s not commuting. My family has all learned how to Zoom.
Lots of good stuff.
But, yeah…also, lots of hard stuff.
And when we are dealing with so much hard stuff, life just seems, well harder…and it’s sneaky. Because life has been hard for so long, it’s something we’ve adjusted to, or so we think. We forget that we’re carrying so much extra. And then it becomes so easy to beat ourselves up…come on, just focus. Just slow down. Just breathe. You’re better than this. You should be doing better than this. You should be doing more for your child. You shouldn’t be so short tempered. Are any of these in your vernacular right now? You’re not alone.
And you know what’s interesting? Those thoughts were probably swirling around your head a year and a half ago (well, depending on the age of your child…some of you didn’t even have babies a year and a half ago!). As outlined in a short article* from the NY Times this week, parents (mostly mothers) are struggling…and in particular, they are feeling insecure about all the aspects of parenting they were already insecure about. From yelling and having a short temper to feeling like you simply aren’t doing enough for your children, the author cites Ellen Galinsky’s research from the last 20 years demonstrating that these are the areas parents struggle with the most…pandemic or no pandemic. And the pandemic just takes all of those insecurities and puts them into the pressure cooker that covid-life can be…intensifying the feelings (and increasing the opportunities for feelings of inadequacy).
But there’s good news even in that. As I discussed in an article a few weeks ago, we’re far more likely to grow from our hardest experiences than to fold in on ourselves. As Galinsky said in the NYT piece, “it’s impossible to grow without conflict.” It’s true physically…we break down our muscles only to grow them back stronger…and it’s true in our relationships, both with others and with ourselves. Like I said yesterday, Rupture + Repair = Strength. So, what can we do to embrace the hard, the challenging, the icky, the stress?
Change your question:
Indeed, softening into the challenges, looking for the opportunities for learning and growth. And perhaps the most challenging…being okay with not being perfect all the time, are the keys to getting through these challenging times.
I love the high note Times article ended on… the good news is, your children are much more gentle judges than we are. Even Janet Lansbury, one of the most well-known RIE Parents out there, had doubts and worries about how her now-adult daughters would grade her parenting…and was surprised and delighted to hear what they had to say about what they remembered, reflecting our children’s memories tend to be forgiving. And…we don’t need to be calm all of the time. We don’t need to be perfect…Parents don’t need to be on their game at every moment, especially if we repair, we come clean with our children and admit our mistakes.
And I’ll give the last word to Ellen Galinsky this week: “We judge ourselves based on the big things. But it’s the simple things — like taking a walk — that make a difference to a child. To a child, the small things are the big things.”
The small things are the big things.
What small thing can you do for your child today? More importantly…what small thing can you do for yourself?
*Please let me know if you can’t access this article…and protip: if you have a Los Angeles County Library card, you can get access to the online version of the NYT, 24 hours at a time, following this link (You need your account number and pin). If you’re not in Los Angeles, see if your local library might offer a service like this. (And never mind the cheerleader…save the libraries, save the world.)
63. Face Your Problems
Face your problems
with your children
while the problems
are still small.
If you give your full attention,
your problems will become
A problem is not an interruption
to a serene and happy life.
A problem is an ordinary part
of such a life.
Effort is not required.
If you pay calm attention,
solutions appear naturally.
For years I was afraid
of my children’s problems.
I had enough of my own.
I tried to solve their problems
by decree and pronouncement from on high.
So their problems grew and grew.
I was not present to myself.
How could I be present to them?
As I have grown older,
problems are no longer problems,
They needn’t separate us
from our children.
Don’t be afraid.