I’ve been feeling really good lately. As I shared a few weeks ago, the decision to spend less time on-line and more time in real life – and actually taking action to make that happen – has really made a difference. I feel the room, the space that has opened up in my life, and I’m more relaxed, less stressed, and happier…sort of.
I say “sort of” because I expected my interactions with the boys would reflect my rediscovered sense of peace – more fun, more quality time together, less tension and head-butting – but they didn’t. At least, not as much as I expected or wanted.
I especially noticed it with my oldest. For months I have been wondering: Where was the sense of playfulness I had a few years ago, when he was younger? Why did his antics send me into immediate discipline mode, instead of laughing along with him? When did Hubby and I get so uptight? Have we lost perspective on kids being kids? When did it become so challenging to be the loving, adoring mother I want to be?
Why do I struggle to be as great a mom to an 8-year-old as I was to a 2-year-old?
I know this is the low point in this cycle I go through as a parent. I’ve been here before. (You may be thinking, Hasn’t she already written about this? Why yes. Yes I have!)
All the same, this underlying current of low tolerance and too-seriousness really bothered me. I see myself in these moments and I feel let down, because I’m not being the mom I want to be.
And mostly I worry, about what these interactions mean for my relationship with Zip and his self-esteem. He is such a happy, resilient kid! But I can’t help wondering if I’m hurting him in ways that aren’t yet apparent. I can’t help worrying that if I let us drift apart a bit now – if I let my rigid expectations and crabbiness start creating distance between us, if I don’t go out of my way to maintain closeness – we’ll only be farther apart as he gets older.
I think about that slippery slope of parent-child relationships and how easy it is for things to start turning bad. I think about how children can hold onto the emotional imprint of our interactions with them – the feelings of rejection or shame or hurt – for a long, long, long time.
Maybe I overthink things. I wonder that sometimes.
Parents screw up. We yell at our kids and reprimand and ignore sometimes. Maybe, as long as there is lots of good stuff too, we’re doing okay. (This is what my husband would say.) Maybe we need to stop analyzing so much and let ourselves parent naturally, be human.
Or maybe we can let ourselves be human, treat ourselves with grace when we make mistakes, and still try to do better, still try to be our best parenting selves.