I have always wanted to be a parent; for as long as I can remember. I enjoyed kids. I was around them for most of my life; whether it be cousins, volunteer work, or babysitting. And kids seemed to naturally connect with me and that felt purposeful.
I was very thankful when I found someone I thought I would be married to forever and raise children with. I wanted our home to be filled with joy, fun and ease. I knew there were going to be challenging times and there were… Raising children is one of the most difficult, unappreciated, but exceedingly important jobs on this earth. But when the some of the problems in our marriage became projected onto our children, our home began feeling like it was a place where I had to walk on eggshells. I felt caged in, depressed, and overwhelmingly sad. I was grieving the family life and partnership I wanted to have, but was unsure would ever exist. I wanted so much to experience joy in parenting and I was feeling that on my own; I felt very bonded with my children. But I was unable to share in that experience with my husband and father of our children. We were not co-parents in the way I imagined. We were not united. In fact, we were on two different planets… And so, it ended. And I began to grieve another loss…
It wasn’t easy being on my own. I was so afraid to be alone. I wasn’t ready. I tried desperately to ignore that fact and worked hard at convincing myself I knew what was best. But I wasn’t in a clear place; I was hurting. And almost immediately, I attracted someone whom was hurting also. Which is usualy how it works, I’ve come to understand. It took more strength to leave what ended up evolving into a relationship with a narcissist, than it did to leave my marriage, believe it or not. Why? Because by the time I was through the shock of my dream marriage ending and my shame for making choices out of fear subsided, I could finally see things clearly… And I was bleeding profusely and fading quickly. I had been the life energy that kept this troubled person breathing and now I barely was. I was going to go down with him if I didn’t escape… and so I did.
All I ever wanted was to be happy, just like anyone else. I am happy now. I understand that happiness is a practice. It is not something one can buy, steal or fake. It comes from knowing who you are and what your values are; and then choosing to focus on only things that are in alignment with those values. A practice that requires attention every day. All I ever wanted was to laugh, to dance, to sing… if I had nothing else other than my children and the clothes on my back; as long as we were happy, I would feel like we had the world.
I’ve come to also understand that parenting is also a practice. And parenting as a single Mother has it’s own particular challenges. But every day brings a new opportunity to begin again and I’m learning how to be the parent I’ve always wanted to be. But I have my moments; moments where I feel like I failed. I tell my clients in my professional work that failure conventionally defined, is non-existant. It’s not an end result or a dead-end road, but rather a redirection or a diversion in one’s path.
I remember the evening I decided to plan an activity where we could all connect, as that rarely happens anymore these days. Kids are in different ages and different stages. The demands are their time can be plentiful. So, I thought planning something would be the best way to create some time together. I invited my three children to join me on the floor in the family room. We set the timer for 30 minutes of uninterrupted time together; no phones, no TV, just us and a game to guide us in our interactions. I figured 30 minutes would be a breeze; best to start small and work our way up. Well, we only lasted about 20 minutes. Rather, I only lasted 20 minutes before I threw my cards aside and huffed out of the room. It wasn’t the best choice I know, but I was feeling these larger than life feelings and I became overwhelmed with self-judgement. The kids started arguing and challenging each other, speaking unkindly and I began to feel responsible, disappointment and like I failed. So, I gave up… I was attached to an idea of how it should go and it didn’t, so the feelings of inadequacy and self-judgement crept in. Inadequacy and self-judgement are old familiar feelings I have experienced in my life. I’ve been working so hard at understanding the roots of my false beliefs and ideas that have led me to unhelpful places. I’ve been focused on self-awareness and learning to identify when my occasional mood shifts are a result of my thinking or my paying attention to someone’s elses moods and behaviors. I thought I was doing so well. But sitting in my room alone, hearing the chatter from my kids, discussing, “What was wrong with Mama,” I recognized, perhaps I’ve been trying too hard… Personal development work can take you down the rabbit hole at times if you allow it. And it’s important to live lightly whenever one can. I realized I underestimated my needs in terms of balancing this self-awareness work with rest, rejuvenation and FUN. Sometimes we just need to laugh, in fact most times, laughter is the cure for all ailments. I’ve identified and worked through some deeply patterned behavior that presents itself every so often. The kind that has me reacting quite harshly with myself. But I am getting better at remaining compassionate, at ease and loving with myself in these moments. Now I need to make sure I cultivate a balance between work and play; practicing what I teach.
Yes, this letting go work can be rewarding, but also very uncomfortable. Facing all of false belief and patterns I’ve held onto, some consciously, some unconsciously… to learn to let them all go and free myself of all imaginary things. This can feel frightening, isolating and incredibly uncomfortable. Though I’m noticing, I’m becoming more comfortable with the uncomfortable. I know this is important for me to learn. It is my life lesson here. And parenting is certainly assisting me on this path of learning to let go. Letting go of the beliefs that I should always know how to communicate effectively and know how NOT to personalize teenage behaviors… My children call my bluff often and I’m forced to examine these false beliefs that have led me to believe that to be successful at parenting, I need to have all the answers or at least pretend I do. No one has all the answers. And frankly, I wouldn’t want them! What fun would parenting be during the teen years, if I had all the answers? O.K., that may be a bit extreme, but I do believe that parenting without all the answers affords one the opportunity to learn and to grow. Learning is not only a core value of mine, it is also who I am. I have always had an innate desire to understand.
So, after my parenting tantrum on our family connection evening, I soothed myself with compassion and breathed in deeply knowing tomorrow, I could begin again. I came out from my bedroom, told them I loved them and shared my truth of not always having the answers. Of course, they weren’t surprised; two of them are teenagers!
I am so grateful these beautiful, intelligent beings, that choose me to teach them. And they are certainly teaching me. I wouldn’t have it any other way…