Before becoming a parent, I had a lot of visions of the type of parent I’d be.
I’ll be Montessori. I’ll be a weekend skier. I’ll have perfect church attendance. My kids will have capsule wardrobes and tangle-free curls.
Most importantly, I will never, ever, yell. I’ll be a vision of peacefulness and straight hair.
All this went out the window when the kids actually arrived.
When my son was a toddler, I’d get frustrated with him and tell myself, “It’s OK, he won’t remember this. You have a few more years to become the glowing parent he’ll remember.”
Now my son is five. I can’t use that excuse.
The other day I found him jumping off the side of the tub into the bath, splattering water on every surface of the bathroom, risking his life.
I yanked him out of the tub, grabbed his shoulders and yelled, “What were you thinking? What is WRONG with you?”
His face crumpled.
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“Wait. No! There’s nothing wrong with you! It’s OK to make mistakes.”
“Leave me alone. Go away . . .” he said.
“OK. I’ll give you a minute and I’ll come back and we’ll talk.”
After a big deep breath outside on the deck, I apologized to him.
“You should have just taken away one of my privileges,” he said. Good parenting advice, son.
“Right. I’ll do that next time. And you won’t jump off the side of the tub anymore?”
“OK, good. I won’t yell at you anymore either.”
He’s quiet. “Yes, you will. You’ll forget and yell at me again. You always forget.”
Dang, he knows me.
“You don’t think I can do it?”
“Well. I’m going to work on it. You’re probably going to make a mistake again and so will I. But I’m going to work on this every day. Does that sound good?”
He starts talking about airplanes. I take this as a yes.
I draw a star on my wrist each morning to remind me of my commitment to be peaceful in my parenting, even if I don’t always succeed. It reminds me to show up and apologize if I need to.
I write down some ways I can bring more peace into my life.
I can turn off my phone earlier and get better sleep.
I can have a little less coffee every day.
I can have more water.
I can do some workout videos but not get vigilant about it.
I can have nourishing food before all the junk food. And a little junk food, too.
I can accept help from my partner, parents, and friends.
I can share with them when things get hard.
I can keep doing therapy and working on my growth.
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I can rest, even when there’s work to do.
I remind myself my most important job has always been to teach my son how to be peaceful in the world and gentle with himself and others, not to be perfect or expect perfection in any area of his life.
I know my frustration toward him comes from me being overcommitted and placing expectations on myself that are unrealistic.
How can I expect him to be gentle with himself when I’m not being gentle with ME?
I want my son to know how much I love being his mom. I’m not perfect, and I love him unconditionally.
I mess up and I say sorry. I get better. I grow.
This is real-life peace, not what I envisioned, but better because it’s real.