Becoming a parent who smiles when you keep falling into the same old patterns
"Kids kids kids! It's time to get up my lovely children!
What starts as a whisper, gradually becomes a perky scream, as I notice that my two "bundles of love" are hardly hearing my voice under their still strong sleep.
At some point, I finally manage to actually wake them up and take them to the breakfast table.
We worked on our morning routine, and used so many of the positive parenting strategies here and there.. Yet, here we are : both kids in their pajamas, running again under their duvets when we only have 20 minutes to leave and be on time to school.
My daughter's staring at her drawer, lost in her own thoughts.
"Honey, you'll have to go to school in your pajamas if you don't get dressed, I'm leaving in 15 minutes.
"But I'm too cold mom! I want you to dress me! I want to be with you."
All this, while her younger brother is crying that he doesn't want to go to school, he doesn't want to brush his teeth, and I don't recall what else he didn't want to do by the way.
What does it take?
The purpose of this article is NOT to give you yet another very useful list of techniques or sentences you can use to survive to morning prep.
It is to show you that even when you do know plenty of these, you still have to adapt them to you, your kid and the specific situation you're in.. a never ending journey.
I thought it was the time to reveal how I began this journey, and why I'm sharing it with you.
Becoming parent who smiles, at the beginning
As you may have read in my "About" page, I first discovered the word "neurosciences" back in 2016, when I had a toddler and a newborn, and the world of babies fascinated me in a way I'd never thought possible.
So I actively followed a couple of online courses on the subject, which gave me many answers to a few puzzling experiences I had:
the way I was "feeling" and "imagining my babies as they were in my womb, and what that meant;
the way they would react to my own internal states - when I was tensed or calm, sad or excited;
how physical contact would soothe both me and baby
It felt less lonely, too : sometimes, as a new parent, we're overwhelmed by hormones, emotions, and I'd found myself lost and alone. Mostly happy, but also lost.
What was going wrong?
Coming back to work was equally challenging. I had to face the guilt, the lack of time for myself and for our couple; and to cope with frustrations and sudden bursts of anger that were unknown to me before.
At every stage we were going through, new exciting discoveries, and also new struggles: especially, facing the sudden realization that I was reacting to my kids' behavior in a way I couldn't control nor understand, and by doing this, I was triggering even more unwanted behavior instead of stopping it.
The process towards a better understanding of myself and my kids was gradual and slow..
At some point, everything was just too much :
coping with different needs and desires within our couple;
with an intense full-time-working mom schedule;
and with a strong-willed child whose reactions were so emotionally intense and strong.
Where was I going, why was I running all the time, what did I want ?
Becoming a parent who smiles and grows needs time
While I was following my husband on an expat mission, I had to take some time off work. And I had all of a sudden a lot of time to think.
Yes, that was hard : I didn't know what I wanted anymore.
I knew what I didn't want; but then? And besides, how can I change the things I don't like about my life? I felt in a dark hole.
That was about a year ago. Then, two things happened (I'm summarizing for your benefits of course!)
I decided to volunteer in an international school and help along the other educators with their young children. I was impressed by the cozy, familiar atmosphere, by the way children were actively engaged in experiencing first hand what they were taught; and by the way teachers expressed the boundaries and limits.
Serendipity brought me to watch a webinar by Chrystal Paine, where she told her story about how she went out of debt and supported her family thanks to blogging.
A light bulb fired up in my head.
I was struggling to understand myself, and my kids, but on that path, I was learning a whole lot. Why not sharing that with other parents, so that I could be useful and create the supportive community I didn't find at the time?
The beginning of a new journey
At the beginning I just trained myself at writing every day.
When I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming a writer and open a school, just like Jo in Little Women (my very first non illustrated book, that I read all by myself when I was 9 - still remember it so clearly!).
And then, over the years, that dream got hidden under more reasonable pathways.
But maybe it's finding other ways to surface once more?
What's for sure is that I've come to believe the relationship we create with our children can make a difference for their future life as adults.
The efforts we put now are like a long term investment for a better world, from which we can benefit from right now in our every day life.
It takes time, effort and the willingness to put ourselves into question. But we can do this together!
My hopes for the future
Becoming a parent who smiles means going from feeling frustrated, alone, and looking for balance, to feeling confident and mindful about the way we grow with our children.
It means realizing that in order to be a good parent, you don't have to feel like you have to sacrifice something of yourself.
That's the transformation I hope this blog will contribute to create.
My vision is that it can become a comfortable, secure place to turn to whenever you feel down, looking for answers.
The lessons I've learnt while becoming a parent who smiles and grows
While I'm still at the beginning of this journey and with loads of areas in which I need to deepen my understanding and my knowledge, there are a few lessons I've learnt that might be useful to you as well.
1) Each little step counts
When I started to hear about mindfulness and meditation, I thought it would be impossible for me to do it on a regular basis, and even a little useless.
Little did I know that two years later, I would make it as part of my morning routine, and more importantly, that it would allow me to pay more attention to the people I love..
Sometimes you feel like something can be important to you, without knowing how or why. You just feel it.. and only oh so many steps later you find the connection to the big picture.
2) Priorities and values change over time, and it's important to spend some time reviewing them.
When words, thoughts, and actions aren't coherent with your core values, you get stuck somehow, sooner or later.
That's when I was running all the time and sacrificing time with my children without knowing why I was doing it, but just thinking that was what I was supposed to do, that I didn't have a choice.
It took me time to understand all that, and to translate it into different daily choices on how to intentionally live my life.
3) You can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself, first.
Such a powerful lesson for me, and the way I was used to seeing life.
And it translates into very practical actions : if I'm too tired, I can't be patient with my children.
I need to accept that, say it out loud and then do something about it before responding to my kids. That could simply mean staying alone in one room for a few minutes to breathe and relax; and when I don't, I end up screaming.
4) Being is more important than doing.
Your actions come from who you are. For so long, I acted as if what I did determined the value of who I was. I failed to understand that is just the opposite.