This week’s Reflection Thursdays piece centers on how to live more peacefully with your kids and yourself by learning to let things go. I hope you will read and weigh in with your own thoughts! xo Melissa
There is deeply something counterintuitive about parenting. We parents aim to do our best, to do things well, to raise our kids in the right way. Personally, I know that too often I fall short, leaving me feeling like a failure. It’s bad enough that I lose my temper with my kids; even worse is the aftermath and feelings of guilt that take me hours to shake.
Last weekend was a perfect example. I took my kids to the beach. Since we’ve been focusing a lot more lately on household chores, I had high expectations for how much my older boys would help me. I did most of the packing (the night before once they were asleep). Once there, though, I looked to them to pitch in and help me out. At times, they rose to the occasion but at others, perhaps because my instructions were too vague, they looked at me helplessly. “Fold your clothes, put them on the bed, and help me pack!,” I pleaded as we prepared to leave. Each boy did his own creative version of folding, mixing the clean with the dirty clothes (wait, you don’t fold dirty clothes and put them back in the suitcase alongside the clean clothes?). Then, my boys began playing tag football with a dirty sock. “We are not packed!,” I exclaimed. They looked at me quizzically. They had done what I asked, so what more was needed?
In these moments, when my kids act like they don’t know how to do the dishes, don’t know how to sweep, don’t know how to pack, I struggle in coping with stress. I feel like the metaphorical tea-pot whose top could pop off because it annoys me to the core that despite years of lessons, my kids don’t know how to dive in and help me out.
I’ve been wondering lately why this family drama of ours around chores constantly unfolds in the same way. Kids live in a world that works like an assembly line. They execute task after task on a singular basis, completing one thing before turning to the other. Eat your breakfast — check. Brush your teeth — check. Zip your backpack — check. Lace your shoelaces — check. They aren’t asked to fill in the gaps and make sure a myriad of agenda items get completed on time.
To the contrary, we moms live in a world that operates like a open bazaar. Countless people are throwing requests and demands our way and we field them. Meanwhile, we know what it takes to keep our own counter clean. No one tells us: “get up, cook breakfast, do the shopping.” Rather, we create our lists and complete them ourselves.
So if I ask my kid to act like I do, as a vendor an an open bazaar, he is not going to know what to do. He is going to do that one specific thing I have asked, and then stop right there, and go do what he wants to do. I expect him to know how to run a household, but this is not how he has been taught to go about things in life — at least not yet.
As I look back on last weekend and wonder why I got so frustrated, it was largely because I was AIMING HIGH — expecting my kid to help, to fill in the gaps, and to understand all that our family needed to get done — but not ACCEPTING LESS.
Personally, I believe in great expectations. To me, each child is a miracle filled with endless potential, heart, love and their own spirit. I encourage my kids to be kind and respectful, to look adults in the eye and shake hands, to acknowledge others. We talk a lot about living in a community and how each person’s behavior affects the others around him.
Where I go wrong is in not accepting when my kids — who are, after all, 11 and under — fall short.
I forget that this parenting thing is a process with fits and starts, ups and downs, highs and lows, and feel that when my kids do things that disappoint me — as all kids do – that my messages haven’t gotten through and all my hard work has been for naught.
Even more deeply frustrating and alienating is the feeling I’m sure some of you other mamas and papas can relate to that my kids, and my husband for that matter, do not fully realize how overwhelming and taxing it is to run our family ship.
Being the practical type, a new resolve of mine is to EXPECT A LOT yet ACCEPT A WHOLE LOT LESS. This allows you to stay the course and not lose your patience when your kids disappoint you with their behavior, as they invariably will. This allows you to take each moment as one moment among millions is the timeline of parenting. This allows you to NOT TAKE IT ALL SO SERIOUSLY THAT YOU COMPLETELY LOSE IT!
My mother’s favorite expression is “let it go.” A good friend of her’s never had a close relationship with her father, but he left her with that one message. Whatever it is, try to just let it go.
This is a great mantra for us parents. Sometimes our children behave so badly that we in turn get angry and can’t let it go. They move on, and are behaving better but we are left with a sour taste in our mouths.
Well, I’m resolving to LET IT GO when it comes to my kids and to LET IT GO when it comes to my own shortcomings. I’m not a saint, a perfect mom, a super mom, or anything anywhere close. What I am is someone who works hard to do the right thing and encourage my kids to be decent people. Learning to let it go means liberating myself from the expectation that things will go the way I expect, embracing the imperfect, allowing for less.
If I can learn to cut my kids some slack here and there and do the same for myself, our family will more quickly overcome our tougher moments and be freed up to soak up the joyful ones. If like me you’ve struggled with how to cope with stress as a parent when your children disappoint you, this change of perspective might really help. It’s been helping me.
Whadd’ya say, mamas and papas? Want to join me? Want to LET IT GO? I hope so.
Thanks for reading,