I love my babies. They bring me so much joy and meaning, lighting each day with their smiles and big hearts. Even on those days that are tough, and I mean the roughest “I’m gonna lose my shit” kind of days, their little complex spirits speak to me within the tears and tantrums. They are always reminding me of the beauty in the breakdowns and the sanctity of this growing process.
After all, they are innocent. No matter the atrocities or assholeries they can commit (because we all have those stories); they are simply learning how to be little humans with big feelings. Little humans in need of love, in need of reassurance, and in need of tools and skills for survival and growth. They may know better with certain mistakes or wrongdoings but they are still just trying to figure it all out; testing boundaries to see how far and quickly they can travel with their little feet.
That being said, it is difficult not to be discouraged and egocentric as a parent sometimes during those breakdowns. It is challenging to help my little ones manage their big feelings when I often have so many of my own to manage as well.
Shame, fear, frustrations, I am still learning this as well. But I can use my own lessons to better understand my children’s needs and meet them on a tinier, more fragile level.
It is hard not to shame myself for those selfish moments when I forget that my children cannot yet fully understand limitations or rules. I feel like the worst parent ever for getting impatient or angry, instead of holding them during a fit. Even if I do pick them up directly after and apologize for how I spoke or what I said. I can be 20% self aware or 100%, but the guilt weighs the same.
Grace is such a key factor for growth and learning to manage our feelings. Shame can so often break us, just as it can break our children. From confusing emotions that cause chaotic behavior, to guilt turned into anger or tears from lack of control. It is so pivotal to our growth as parents and for our children, to not to fear the big “yucky” feelings.
As I try my best to navigate my own overwhelming emotions, I can remember what my children are going through and their need for reassurance, love, and that grace for their growth. I can remember what I needed when I was little with big feelings. I can also remember what hurt me and try to break that cycle.
As they scream, I can wait. Graciously giving them the space and freedom to be mad and feel what they’re feeling (preferably not in the store in which case I can relocate them). As they cry, I can lovingly offer them a hug and respect it if they decline. As they speak, I can listen. Repeating back to them what they may be feeling or struggling with; validating that they are worthy and heard. In their silence or search for a solution, I can teach them different paths to help them navigate those big, icky emotions. It could be a feeling’s journal, a tight hug where they can safely cry, or putting on music to dance or sing their emotions out.
I’m still failing at this daily. But the process has began and the mindful precedent has been set. And all we can do is try, fail, try again, repeat; having faith that each day by showing up we are showing our children validation, grace, and love.
As parents we must expect to stumble and fall again and again. We must look our failure in the mirror; trying once more so that we can teach our littles how to navigate life with that same tenacious spirit.
It is our job to do the work so that we can prevent our children from growing up having more work to do.
Imagine what their lives will be like without: habits of seeking unhealthy outlets, feeling inadequate, or fearing those necessary, terrible feelings that so often end up strengthening us.
It is our responsibility to hold ourselves gently in humility as we teach our children to do the same. To re-frame pain and failure as synonymous with growth. Acknowledging our mistakes and room for improvement and mirroring that to our children as we fail forward. Learning to be gracious with ourselves as we accept our humanity. We must set boundaries, but not laws etched in stone. There should be goals for behavior, but never demands.
Their character must be built on love and respect, not fear or anger.
We are the guide that they look to and by being so, we must aim to be calm and collected. As difficult as it may be, we must be emotionally unaffected by their worst words, worst actions, and worst moments. Remembering that their little hearts carry big love and also big feelings. Giving them grace and encouragement for growth, as we must also give ourselves when we say or do the wrong thing.