Showing posts with label relationships. Show all posts
Showing posts with label relationships. Show all posts

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

5 Things I'm Ashamed to Have Done to My Kids (that I still see happening all the time)

There's never been a time when I considered myself a "bad" mother. Since I've been one for fourteen plus years now though, I'd be remiss if I hadn't done some learning along the way, and if there's a parent who has not changed their style at least a little bit in the course of raising an adult, I really don't want to know them.

So there's no judging going on here. OK there's a little bit of judging, but it's the internal sort, whereby you judge, and then think I used to do that until I found a better way so you stop being critical. Still, you feel sad that they haven't learnt, or have and then decided they were fine all along, and you feel guilty for judging and a little bit superior and smug.

Yeah, I over think things quite a lot.

1) Telling your kid not to snatch, then forcefully removing said object (snatching) from the child to return it to the snatchee
I see this all. the. time. Parents and teachers do it obliviously. They must do, because I never see the furtive, embarrassed glance-around afterwards that would occur if they realised the hypocrisy. Actually, one time I stayed at daycare with my youngest to settle him for the first half hour because he was becoming more and more unhappy being there. The carer did this twice while knowing I was there trying to figure out why he was unhappy. And then she...

2) ...said hey, can I have a look at that? and prised a toy from another kid's hands. He then tried to take it back, so she held it away from him, where he couldn't reach, and made him parrot "please can I have that toy?" after her.
She looked at me for approval after that. A look that smugly said: see how I teach them manners? We left then. And after two more times of my little one screaming and crying when he realised we were going (not when I was leaving; it's not a separation thing at all), we withdrew him from that place completely. But I've done it too. I can point at that daycare and say: "look, how horrible" but the truth is, for my eldest, that would have been situation normal.

3) Spanking, smacking, physical punishment, whatever the kids are calling it these days.
This is a hard one to admit, but there was a time when I even advocated for it. I decided myself and tried to convince others that it was the only way to reprimand a child who didn't have the vocabulary to understand your, what I considered must be, lectures. Until one day about 10 years ago, when my daughter was curled on the floor with her hands over her bottom and I realised I was angry at her, really furious at her, for trying to stop me from smacking her. And I recognised that for the atrocity that it was. It genuinely took another six or seven years for me to get to a point where I didn't feel like smacking - to change my brain chemistry to the point where I automatically thought "how can I help?" instead of "stop it you little...."

4) Sat with my kids at the table until they'd finished every last bite of their dinner.
At the time, I thought I was doing right; teaching them not to be wasteful and such. What I ended up with though, was one child, my poor first born who wore the worst of everything, who now finds it difficult to leave anything on the plate, even if she's so full she feels sick. I should have known better, I think. I myself am unable to eat when I have a blocked nose, because I'm unable to breathe. Breathing through my mouth is not an option for me whilst eating. Thankfully I didn't do this for very long. Just long enough to do damage, obviously, but now, at 14 years old, she's just beginning to figure out the food quantities that are right for her.

5) Told them if they didn't hurry up, I'd leave without them.
It seems fair on the face of it, but the bottom line is that I now have an 11 year old who panics when we say we'll wait for him in the car. It's not the relatively good sort of panic where you do things in double time, but the awful, paralysing kind where you can't think, let alone act, and everything just becomes too hard. Poor guy. We're working on it.

This isn't a full list, by any means; I'll probably write another post next week entitled, "5 MORE things..." and I could maybe even write a third post. But there are a lot of things I've done right, as well. And one of those things I've done right, is learning from all the things I've done wrong. Well... all the things I've come across anyway.

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Friday, 26 October 2012

Stop Calling Me Names!

"I'm sorry I got angry when you were bad," he said.

He said that to me! In the middle of the night, with me mostly asleep and my subconscious unprotected. Of course I'm angry - I'm furious! Apology unaccepted, sir, to put it mildly.

How dare he?

It escalated, of course. With me uttering phrases such as, "keep your damned labels off me" and moving to the edge of the bed. When it got to the point where I was named "mean" for being upset, and informed that I must explain why labelling and criticizing weren't the best thing for human growth and mental health since sliced bread, I left the room.

And so, I am here at 4am, calming down, unclenching my teeth bit by bit, considering making a coffee (because it's clear I won't be going back to sleep), and clicking link after link on the ol' information superhighway during the moments when my mind is screaming too loud for me to write effectively.

He was trying to connect with me, but the connection was backwards.

A backwards connection is just the opposite of a real connection, which is based upon two people relating to each other.
A backwards connection begins with an assumption or definition of the other, that ends all possibility of a relationship, at least in that interaction.

-Patricia Evans, Controlling People

For the backwards connection to be made, I'd either have to concede that I was bad, or argue over why I wasn't. Either option would be a silent reinforcement that it was OK to define me in the first place.

It's not OK.

The only person who can truly define you is yourself. The only person who has access to your motives, your understanding (or lack of), your emotional history, your five senses, and your perspective, is you, so you're the only one with the full story. A person can accept your definition of yourself and relate, but they cannot invent their own and expect to be relating. What it boils down to, is, they're making things up.

I understand it when I step back, and disconnect with my emotional part in this, but that can't happen for over an hour later sometimes. I'm hurt and I've a right to feel that way.

I know why he felt like I was being mean and attacking him: it was because I wouldn't allow the backwards connection. So he felt rejected. It's not the first time and I'm reasonably sure it won't be the last.

I get it, but it's still no fun. I want him to relate to me, not his idea of me.

I've seen a few blog posts recently, by men, along the lines of: I'm overly critical to my partner and I don't know why and I'm scared she's going to leave me. I've seen very few from the receiving end. I imagine everyone's story is different, but I think the reason behind this is shame. And possibly fear of public reaction.

I feel neither shame nor fear in this. Mr. Me and I will sort things through today in a gentle, loving way, as we always aim to do, so that tomorrow, we don't have to.

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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

I Love You, But I Don't Give A Rat's Bum!

I had come to the conclusion that being a mother often meant feigning an interest.

Not always. Sometimes your kids have really interesting topics of conversation, things to show and tell and questions to ask. And that's awesome. But how many people have you met that have all the same interests as you?

OK, now how many seven year old kids have you met that have all the same interests as you?

Yeah. S'what I thought. None.

But we love 'em, don't we? And we love that they're excited about things and learning, even if it is about Pokemon (who knows, he could be a future animator or game programmer!) but it never occurred to me, going into this parenting caper, that I'd have to listen to incessant chatter about things I am completely apathetic towards.

Then I realised how fake that was, and if I modelled that fakeness, I'd be teaching my kids that the correct response is to be dishonest. So where to go with it? Obviously we want some middle ground between "I don't care, please don't talk" and "Tell me all about your belly-button lint, I'm enthralled." I want them to know they can talk to me about anything at any time, but for them to also have the empathy to know that some people just aren't as interested in the same topics as they are, and if we want a captive audience, we need to appeal to them.

At any time is also a biggie for me. Yes, I'm available at any time, but I don't want to be woken up so that I can be shown a new colour of nail polish, or be asked through the toilet door if there are any chores they can do to earn money. Surely it's not that time sensitive that it can't wait five minutes?

Sometimes I find myself at a loss as to how to teach these things. And then realise that always, if there's a behaviour that's happening, good or bad, it's been modelled before.

Was it me?

There have been times, I'm certain, that I've callously interrupted what the kids were doing: pulled them away from a game so I can go out shopping or bill paying or visit a friend or relative or any number of things they have no interest in. Because I'm "bigger and more important" you see. This is the default setting of pretty much all new parents. And if it's not, we're weaned into it because little babies don't really have a lot of preferences in that way, and it becomes habitual just to say "let's go" and expect it to happen.

I also remember often interrupting a game just to "remind" them of things they should do, or to ask them if they'd tried on those new, blue shoes yet... something that may be completely uninteresting to them or not time sensitive, because I unconsciously considered myself bigger and more important.

The idea that I'm bigger, and therefore more important, created second class citizens of my children.

That's not just.

I don't want them growing up believing anyone is second class, not because of their age, or because of their skin colour, or religion, or because of any physical or mental capabilities they may or may not have.

It's true, there are things I must do that are very important. It's also true that my children are the responsibility of myself and my partner and so there will be times when they have to do things they'd prefer not - so to us all in life. But there should never be times when preferences aren't listened to and considered. Very rare are the times when negotiations can't be entered into: generally, yes I can wait fifteen minutes for you to finish your game of Monopoly, and I'm sorry I didn't discuss this with you earlier.

From experience, kids get much better at these negotiations with time and practice, or they can be born into it (which is so much easier, you wouldn't believe it!) but when there are slip ups, the only way to deal with it is without hypocrisy. To politely ask for your personal or psychological space back (in an age appropriate way) and remember you're probably the one who modelled it in the past - you or a teacher they had no choice but to spend six hours per day with, but that's a story for another day.

Ahh, what I love about this blog is that I start writing about a problem and then as I'm writing, I find the solution and write that down too. I think that's what I've done here, so thank you so much for listening! You give me a reason to regularly sit down and get inside my own head for a bit, and I appreciate it.

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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Overcoming The 5 Big Advantages of Being a Single Parent

In my News Feed yesterday, there was a blog post called The Five Big Advantages of Being a Single Parent. And as someone with a fair bit of experience of being a single parent, and an equal amount of experience team parenting, I can say, those five big advantages really are all they're cracked up to be.

I was damn happy as a single parent. I had the control, baby. If you think there's an adjustment period going from team parenting to single parenting, it ain't nuthin compared to the adjustment period going the other way. The adjustment period into singledom lasted.. ummm... oh about a month, while I got used to the idea that everything was on my shoulders. While the frustration of being stuck in one place while the kids slept eased, and a more forward-planning brain grew. And while I accepted that me-time had turned into we-time and there wasn't a lot I could do about it.

I went from being stark-raving bonkers at going it alone, to fairly proficient - kinda like when you first start out fitness training: something that half killed you at the beginning, is a walk in the park after a few weeks' practice.

I didn't bother dating. Possibly that was a mix of having no time for it and being a bit scared that I could be wasting my precious little free time on someone who may or may not be a jerk... OK, I think I'll just fess up and say I enjoyed my single parenthood and I didn't want to share. Nup. It was mine and I'm selfish. An introvert, and uncomfortable with change.

But sometimes, even when you're actively trying to avoid it, love comes along, grabs you by the ankle and proves itself impossible to shake off. That's what happened to me and I'm not sure I've forgiven him for it yet, but I love him just the same.

He's not a back-seat dad either, which would have made it easier for me to transition, and he won't do as he's told!

Neither will I. Head-butt much? Sure, I often want to stick his head up his . . . wait, no, we're both just as much entitled to our autonomy as the other.

So now, "1) Guess who makes all the decisions." Does not have the same answer as it did before, and was a bit of a hard pill to swallow. I genuinely prefer being the top cheese, and I wouldn't be being honest if I didn't mention that I struggle daily to not be completely unilateral. Ahh well, at least I still get to decide what's for dinner every night. Sigh... almost every night then.

"2) Guess how often I argue about money." Yup, that was another thing that I loved. It sorta ties in with number 1 too, because if I made all the decisions, I'd be making all the money decisions too, and we wouldn't be having this conversation. Alas, I must negotiate and compromise. I'd much rather have a kiddy tantrum and get my way, but fair's fair, and if Mr. Me did that I'd probably have a cry and feel very sorry for myself (rightly so!) and being a hypocrite isn't my favourite.

"3) Guess whose kid gets to learn more responsibility." Well, actually, no. When I was single, aside from the kids being younger and less capable, I honestly didn't have the time for them to have more responsibility. Asking them to do something or have responsibility over something was just ten times more work, first convincing them to do it to begin with, then getting it done to the standard you're accustomed? ... Let's just say, if it takes 15 minutes to do a load of dishes by yourself, it takes 45 minutes and 20 extra blood pressure units to do it with a seven year old and a ten year old. Now we can tag-team that sort of thing, and there's more energy to go around for helping kids keep their responsibilities instead of just doing it for them.

"4) Guess who gets all of dad’s (or mom’s) bonding time." That was a bit of a learning curve, especially for my eldest, who honestly thought she was the queen and I was her lady in waiting. She rightfully felt as though I was being stolen from her. I say rightfully because she'd just never had to share before and it was new and painful. Of course all the time wasn't stolen from her, it just felt that way, I'm sure. Eventually, both kids figured out that there was actually more bonding time to be had through doubling the parents.

"5) Guess who doesn’t have to deal with the drama." True. And possibly that was why I initially didn't want to be in a relationship at all. But when you give up the drama, you also give up the companionship. When you give up the give, you give up the take. When you're by yourself, there's only one person to blame, true, and so you just get on with it, but when you're by yourself there's no one whose knowing glance you can share when things are going your way either. No one to hold you up when you think you're about to fall. There's a synergy about playing for a team, so much greater than one plus one. And knowing that simply makes the drama much less of a drama.

I didn't get to write this blog post yesterday as I wanted to. You see, it was our anniversary and there was more good to be had celebrating that together. But it was good to think about and know what I would write; it gave me a lovely perspective on our relationship in a lovely timely manner.

Happy Anniversary, Babe. xx

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Saturday, 8 September 2012

5 Languages of Love.

I love Mr. Me. I honestly do. And I'm pretty sure (okay, I'm actually positive) he loves me too. But, dammit, we don't speak the same language. Not even close to the same language. In fact, we're complete opposites!

This was first brought to my attention about a year ago by a counsellor we were trying on for size, who informed us of the five love languages:

Words of affirmation

Quality time

Receiving gifts

Acts of service

Physical touch

and asked us to rank them in order of importance. 1,2,3,4,5 for me was 5,4,3,2,1 for Mr. Me.

Brilliant. What we've got here is failure to communicate...

Armed with this knowledge we set to trying to learn each other's languages. It's a two way street, too; one of us can't just learn the other's language and expect everything to be okay, because the other person will lose a part of themselves in the process.

Sometimes we remember; sometimes we don't.

This morning we didn't. Oh, he didn't do anything objectively wrong... merely facilitated my sleeping until 8.30am, had pancakes made when I got up then organised to take the kids to the park leaving me alone for the morning. Problem is, I don't notice these as things to be grateful for. Problem is, stuff like this rather annoys me. Heck, if he'd brought the pancakes into the bedroom I'd have seethed!

Of course he was upset that I wasn't grateful. I was resentful that he had decided my preferences for me.

I think I'm fairly easily pleased. All I want is a cuddle and kiss whenever we pass each other in the hallway, but that's not easy for him. Physical touch is the lowest on his list and the definite winner for me. For me, acts of service falls well down the bottom, only slightly above receiving gifts and there's a huge gap between those two and the others. But acts of service are his number one, go-to thing. I feel disempowered by them. Indebted.

We speak different languages.

By fine coincidence, last night, in effort to wind down before sleep, I grabbed the closest book to the bed. It happened to be The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, which Mr. Me had borrowed from the library a couple of weeks earlier.

By fine coincidence, it was fresh in my mind that the big lug speaks a different language to me. We got through the perceived insults much faster than usual.

I still don't really understand his language and it baffles me how he could misunderstand such a simple, low maintenance language as I have, yet there it is:

Words of affirmation

Quality time

Receiving gifts

Acts of service

Physical touch

Our reason for feeling unloved and unappreciated while swimming in the stuff.

What's your love language? Is it different to your significant other, or family members or children?

You can take a quick quiz here to find out if you're unsure.

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