So, this big realisation? It's the realisation that parenting, at least parenting the way I want to parent, doesn't come naturally or easily to me. A fine thing for a mother of three sons to admit, but here I am while they are sleeping, thinking about nothing else but my influence on their lives and how much better I know it could be. I resort to snapping and yelling and time-outs way too often, forgetting to listen to the boys, to let them speak, to treat them the way I'd want to be treated. It sounds so simple but the reality (for me) has been very different. Getting them to listen is hard. Then, getting them to do stuff they need to is hard (you know, eating, going to the bathroom, putting on sunscreen, bathing...). By that stage, you've gone hoarse asking them time after time to put their shoes on because we are already running 30 minutes late for kindy, and then you yell. And there's no turning back from that one, once you yell, it's hard to be calm again and then the affection you want to show your kids... well, it's there but it's hard to get out. And after a tough day I'm not sure they want it either. Never mind the impact of constant barking of orders on the kids, I have ended many an evening feeling very, very inadequate, exhausted and very unhappy, knowing I've not done all I can to bring out the best in them. I don't want to be that mum. I want to be the affectionate, happy, nurturing mother that enjoys her kids rather than endures them. I want to be the mother they want to be with, not the one they want to avoid. Above all else, I want them to be their happiest selves and to know I am doing everything I can to make that happen. If I'm not going to try 100%, what's the point?
So, a few weeks ago I did what I have always done when I feel this way, and resorted to books. Books on pregnancy, babies, toddlers are all part of our odd repertoire of architecture, cookery and history books, but it didn't feel like what I needed was there. So, to the library, and we came across this book, the title of which pretty much hits the nail on the head when it comes to what I'm trying to achieve. Correction, what we're trying to achieve. I've had it now for over a month, renewing it last week so that I could absorb as much as possible and so that my husband could do the same. At first I was skeptical, it seemed a little simplistic and it wasn't telling me what I didn't already know, but really, it's helped enormously to be able to read, and read about something I care so much about, and to know my instinctive response isn't always going to be the right one. By using case studies that I can completely relate to, I'm learning that there is always a way of dealing with things, of getting my point across, of communicating and getting the best out of my children.
The best part (after the fact that it seems to be working) is that we are doing this together. Reading the book together has given us some clarity over how to do things, we talk a lot more about how to deal with situations we know are going to be tough, we are enjoying the kids a lot more and dare I say it, the kids seem to be happier too. The consistency, the shift in gears, the change in attitude and the step back we've taken has had an impact almost immediately.
Anyway, it's not that they are bad kids, far from it, and there are so many marvellous moments we have with them that are completely devoid of frustration and angst, moments that are really quite wonderful and I wouldn't want this post to detract from any of that good stuff. They are great kids, it's just that I'm not a great parent and probably never will be but just as I learned to read, to write, to cook, I can learn to be a better parent and be the mother that raises three kind, compassionate, open-minded and respectful men. Books or not, I do know that for that to happen I need to be kind, compassionate and open minded first.