I’m going to be the first to raise my hand and say I’m only human (shh… don’t tell anyone). I get angry. I get frustrated. I lose my cool. I make mistakes. Sometimes, I dwell on these moments longer than I should (see the Energy Funnel). Sometimes, I see the lesson quickly and change gears to adjust my behaviors.
Living in this pandemic world over the past year has brought a lot of my human behaviors to the forefront, and I’m not always impressed with myself.
But I’m choosing not to judge this observation. In fact, I’ve used this as a great learning experience to be a better parent, a better wife, a better sister, a better friend, a better coach… overall, a better person.
Though each area of my life has improved in some way, I want to share the 3 things COVID taught me about how I parent (and what I can do better), specifically because I believe that, as a parent, guiding our kids to be confident in this crazy world is one of the most important jobs we have.
Equipping our kids with the ability to give themselves some grace when they’re feeling particularly human and empowering them to move forward in a thoughtful and intentional way starts with us. We’re their role models. We are their guides. If we expect a certain behavior from them, shouldn’t we practice it ourselves?
Here are the 3 things I learned about myself as a parent and how I made necessary adjustments to be better.
1. Commit to being a human.
For some reason, I always believed that a parent should never show a sign of weakness or admit to making mistakes because you were just… above that. I know, it sounds silly. But when you’re a kid, you look to your parents as the ones with the answers, the ones who make the hurt go away, the ones who know you better than you know yourself. Parents are superheroes. So when I feel particularly human, I find it very hard and frustrating to try to balance the human side with the “super” parent side. And it can be exhausting.
So I made a change. I talked to my kids. I explained why I was upset, or sad, or angry. And you know what? It made a huge difference. They understood why certain behaviors made me angry or frustrated; there was no guessing or tiptoeing around Angry Mommy. They understood why I was crying or sad (we said goodbye to our cat who needed a new home; there were lots of questions about tears that day…) and they weren’t afraid to talk to me about it. I gave myself grace to be a human and the confidence to be honest with myself and my kids about what I was feeling and why, a lesson I hope I’m teaching my three little boys so they confidently show up as themselves as they grow up. It reminded me of the great wisdom shared by Theodore Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
2. Commit to always make things better.
You know those days when the kids just seem to be on a mission to press EVERY. SINGLE. BUTTON? Yeah, we’ve all been there. If we’re lucky, it’s a day-long event. If we dealt a poor hand, it might last a week (DARN FULL MOON). And here’s what I noticed: I drop to a very unproductive level. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I just give up and let them run amuck, choosing my battles so I don’t waste the waning energy I have. And at the end of the day? I feel horrible, guilty and upset.
So I made a change. When we’re having a day, I ask myself: what would make this a good day? When I reset my brain to think about how it could be better, instead of dwelling on why it’s not a good day, things start to shift toward a more productive outcome. And at the end of the day, I usually feel energized and happy.
3. Commit to getting to a state of calm.
My kids are looking to me for guidance. If I’m grumpy or short-tempered, why would they think any other way would be appropriate? We see this behavior everywhere – from the workplace (have you ever actively avoided the grumpy boss?) to the kitchen table – no one wants to be around grumpy people because it brings down the energy of the room.
I noticed when I was stressed, anxious or generally frustrated, my kids would reflect the behavior. They’d fight more, whine about the smallest thing and refuse my attempts to diffuse the situation. It always ended up with an explosion, usually from me.
So I made a change. When things are getting a little heated, we all take a yoga breath (sometimes I take a few more in the quiet escape of the bathroom, or basement, or closet) and we get re-centered. We figure out what’s bothering us and then ask ourselves why. Sometimes, the core of the issue is something easily fixed (i.e. SNACKS). Sometimes, the core of the issue is something bigger, like not enough time to get something done (*raises my hand*), and that requires an intentional mindset shift. Focus on what you need to get done, focus on who you need to be to get it done and show up as that person.
What has the pandemic taught you about how you show up to life? Start small; pick one thing that you notice about yourself. Maybe it’s something you do really well. Maybe it’s something you’d like to improve on.
Whatever it is, write it down. If it’s working, do more of it. If it’s not working, think about what you could do to make a change.
Remember that we’re human, too. And we can help if you need it.
Consider reading Reassess What’s Really Important