27 Feb Parenting Is Not About The Parent
Guest Contributor – Michelle Belsey
I’m a mother of three wonderful daughters who are 21, 16 and 14 years old. While parenthood is difficult from the beginning, the last six months have brought the most challenging parenting experiences I’ve had.
When kids are infants and toddlers, parenting is hard work. I’m sure there are people who will disagree with me. However, I’m not going to romanticize it. When they’re small, it’s all about meeting the basest needs – the next meal, the clean diapers, and bedtime. That being said, those problems are relatively easy to fix. One yell means feed me. Another cry means it’s time to change the diaper, and yet another one, says it’s time for some cuddles to get to sleep. There are cut and dry solutions (most of the time). Of course, there are times I remember crying because I was so exhausted or because nothing I did would soothe the baby. Eventually, though, we’d get there and a good sleep would make everything better for both of us. Not so with teenagers.
There is nothing easy about them. I contend the hardest part of parenting is not being able to fix the hurt or sadness – the intangible issues that come with the teenage brain. Gone are the days of simply changing a diaper to improve her mood. It’s no longer possible to put a band-aid on it, give it a smooch and make it all better. Now the problems are deeper and more emotional. AND IT DRIVES ME TO DISTRACTION.
Sometimes THEY don’t even know why they’re crying, so, clearly, I’m not going to know. Often, they lash out at me unprovoked. It hurts my feelings, and occasionally, I even cry. However, it’s not because they’re mean to me. It’s because of how they hurt. It’s less about the words they say than the pain they’re feeling.
When I can see they’re hurting, I’ll push for them to talk to me. Regularly that meets with resistance and the opposite result – silence. I tell them I love them constantly. I’m generous with the hugs. I’m emotionally available to them. Yet nothing I do fixes their suffering, and it breaks my heart. Because they’re my babies, I internalize it all and question my parenting skills. It eats me up that I can no longer fix their boo-boos.
Then I had an epiphany – parenting my children is not about me. It occurred to me that I’ve been parenting my kids the way I believed I needed to be parented when I was a child. All the things I’ve been doing for my kids are all the things I wished my mother had done for me. Additionally, all the demands I make and expectations I have, are based on the stories I grew up hearing about how a good child behaves and what makes people successful. I spent years haranguing my oldest daughter into being more like me, and I finally realized nothing would make her more miserable.
At High5, we do a lot of work based on the Platinum Rule, which says we should treat people as THEY want to be treated. I know this is somewhat contrary to the Golden Rule (treat others as you want to be treated), which many people take pride in following. This is not to say living your life by the Golden Rule is wrong. It’s just to offer another perspective.
Once it occurred to me what I was doing, I asked what they needed from me. The answers were surprising. Sometimes my kids just need me to shut up and be physically present. Other times they don’t even need my physical presence; they need to be alone to stop over-thinking and talking about it whatever IT is. What they most definitely do NOT need (or want) is for me to tell them that someday it won’t matter. This negates the very real feelings they are having now. They also don’t need me to fix it. As much as I want to, the reality is that I can’t, and then I’ve added more angst because they’re upset that I’m upset. Besides, our kids need to learn how to adjust and cope on their own. If we’re always fixing it or pushing it aside, they won’t develop those skills (editorial aside).
Now, am I telling you not to help the teenagers in your world? Of course not. Teach them. Guide them. Laugh with them. Love them with everything you have. Do all of this keeping in mind, they aren’t you. This isn’t your do-over. Sometimes let THEM guide YOU. Ask them what they need from you. They may not know, and that’s okay. Just continue doing all of the aforementioned things. If they tell you, though, it’s important that you give them what they request. Be sure when you ask the question, you’re ready to hear the answer and willing to follow through on it. You might think they’re kids, and they don’t really know what they want. I guarantee they do.
If you want to give the teenagers in your world a head start on their lives, reserve their spot in our High5 Teen class on July 7-8, 2018! All it takes is $250! CLICK HERE to make your deposit. If you want to discuss the opportunity to see if it’s right for your teen, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.