This is at least my 25th attempt to write this post. I have not posted on my blog for over two years. I have given this post many titles. My favorite and lead contender until recently was How to Go to Hell and Back in Front of Your Children; and Survive. I decided I am finally emotionally healthy enough to start posting again . I have also ditched that title. What I couldn’t do for almost two years was heal. I know that sounds like psycho-babble, but it’s true. When the conflict, running, grief, and fear finally stopped over the last month it was like a wave had suddenly spit me out onto the beach of life. And I was alone.
I have spent a lot of time trying to be “okay” for my now young adult children. I followed my own recommendations – most of the time. So now, I’m going to be an honest parent and come clean about how I did following my own “psychologist” recommendations as I went through the break up of my family. I will do my best to approach this topic with dignity and grace.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all circumstances and thinking where controllable? Technically, that would make us all robots, but sometimes it would be nice to have a magic wand and make everything all better! I have sat with one parent or another many times as a psychologist and felt so helpless regarding what they were telling me about what the other parent was up to. How could the court allow it? How could someone do such a thing? Why couldn’t something be done? Many times, that parent came to me to see if I could do something about the other parent’s decisions and/or behavior.
The bottom line is, no one can change another’s behavior. The standard psychologist answer of, “you can only change your response to another’s behavior” is true. Sometimes the truth hurts and, many times, so does changing one’s own response. As a parent, changing your response to someone else often confuses and hurts kids. If you have read any of my other posts, you know how much I love being a mom. A healthy and happy mom of healthy and happy kids. I also hate failure. The last two years have been a no win situation. Failure was the only option to make it back to health, but failure also meant hurting my kids.
Failure is very ugly. It has damaged my self-esteem as a parent. It has damaged my self-esteem as a professional. Failure meant leaving a home, friends, a city, and a practice I loved. Failure felt like my identity while I tried to portray to my kids and those who loved me in the past and currently that “I’m fine.” Not only fine, but strong, brave, and indestructible. Years of “fight” had given way to two years of “flight.” I realize now that I was not running away from something or someone, I was fleeing toward the place I am now.
The fight or flight instinct is protective. For millions of years, the fight or flight instinct has protected parents from being eaten and protected their kids from being eaten as well. It’s the “mother bear” instinct in all parents. The fight or flight instinct is also based in anxiety. If a parents is not worried their children will be eaten, the parent will not move their children to safety. Most parents want to be around to raise their young, so they also get to safety when they perceive life threatening circumstances.
When parents are anxious, kids are anxious. Constant states of anxiety, for real or perceived reasons, steal life. I tried to control my anxiety. My kids know me better than anyone else in the world. They can easily detect when I’m trying to hide anxiety. Sometimes they would ask me, “What’s wrong?” Other times my anxiety would just cloud the room. I am working on leaving unnecessary anxiety behind.
One of the best decisions I have made with both of my kids is to acknowledge when I am having trouble controlling my anxiety. Both have experienced high anxiety for different reasons over the last turbulent years and I’m so thankful they have both come to me for help. Acknowledging the anxiety and making sure I let them know how I got my anxiety back under control models an important skill they are both getting better at as well.
One parent’s perception of what is a problem, of what is failure, of what is dangerous, fun, elicit, immoral, valued, etc. can be very different from the other parent’s perception. It’s at the perception level that kids can really get confused and hurt. Because two parents’ perceptions may be completely different, kids can feel like one parent is lying. One parent may be lying. Figuring out who is lying or negotiating peace is not a kid’s job.
Psychologists tell parents not to talk negatively about the other parent in front of or to the kids. I give myself a B+. I would be lying and a hypocrite not to admit my words have not always been kind. Kids need to have healthy relationships with both of their parents. Period. The end. Part of getting back to health is admitting to myself I could have done a better job and will continue to try and do a better job with how I use my words now and in the future.
Conscious Parenting/Conscious Healing
Healing after being spit out onto the beach of life has become a priority. I also realize now, that is must be a conscious priority. Distracting myself with being busy has become my drug of choice. No one wants to hear my sad story. Everyone who has heard the story is sick of it, including me. Healing means being okay with being by myself, but remembering that I have many friends and loved ones and that means I’m not alone. I am new. Healing means recognizing and being thankful and excited everyday that I have a new practice in a dream office and location. Healing means loving every minute I get to spend with my kids and accepting that what is developmentally typical for their age is both independence and dependence. No matter what age, kids just want happy, healthy parents who openly love and support them. Thanks for your support and patience while I heal.