Moments of Weakness:
The other day, we shared one of our proud moments of strength. Today, we’ll share with you a moment of weakness. Life is not perfect, and we all make mistakes. That’s how we grow.
I thought I finally had everything figured out: as long as I stay calm when Kyle has a tantrum, it won’t escalate to rage and he won’t burst into The Hulk.
When Kyle started Kindergarten online classes at big school, I thought it would be a breeze. He adjusted pretty well to online classes at his pre-school, so I didn’t think it would be any different. As you’ve probably guessed, I was wrong.
It was hard for him to sit through 2-and-half-hour classes of more serious learning, when he already knew most of the lessons. The chat box on zoom was a big distraction, because he wanted to type so many things (but teacher says it’s only to be used when there are internet problems). The icing on the cake was that he kept rocking his chair and falling backwards, sideward, and every which way, causing the wooden chair to bang on the floor and scratch our parquet tiles. It was driving me nuts!
So naturally, I had a mini breakdown one day. Aside from Kyle’s usual antics during class, I was stressed about preparing our meals (our cook had left again, and I had to train the new one but didn’t really have the time to). To top it off, someone kept nagging me about how I don’t fix the sheets properly, and about imaginary crumbs on the floor when I feed Kyle his snacks.
So when Kyle kept minimizing the Zoom window to google during class, I snapped at him. He got upset and came over to me, growling. He hugged me but I was still upset, which didn’t sit well with him. The next thing I knew, he banged his hands towards my face and hit me in the eye! It really hurt, so I screamed in pain and watched him look at me like it was no big deal. I was shocked at how he seemed so unremorseful, that I spanked him on his bum.
“That didn’t hurt so much, mom.”
I spanked him again.
“Why did you do that, Kyle? It hurts so much! Don’t do that ever again!”
Spanking has always seemed counter-intuitive to me, because I can’t reconcile how hitting a kid can help them learn to stop hitting you. But at that moment, all I could think of was making him understand how much hitting hurts, so he would think twice before doing it again.
I let him go back to class as I sat there, fuming and wondering if all my efforts at positive parenting had been futile. Maybe a strong hand is really what’s needed for a child as strong-willed as mine. He didn’t apologize, so I stayed quiet the whole time. I stormed out of the house to take a walk and clear my head, then watched TV by myself to calm down.
Soon, Kyle came over to hug me and say sorry. We talked about it, like how we usually do, and we processed what happened. It didn’t really make me feel better, because I was still struggling with all these thoughts of self-doubt about my parenting skills. It took me a while to realize that maybe the problem was not my parenting style, but my attitude towards parenting and my own unconscious issues and beliefs.
A while back, a friend shared with me the concept of Conscious Parenting by Dr. Shefali Tsbary (watch her TED Talk here). She applies the concept of Consciousness (read Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth”) towards parenting, and argues that we need to look inward to resolve our own issues so that we can become better parents. The child is not the problem- it is the parent. Those concepts resonated deeply with me, but I forgot them when things became overwhelming.
When I looked inward, that’s when I realized that my expectations towards Kyle had been unreasonable. Kids are not meant to sit still for long periods of time, especially not for online classes. They will get restless and bored, but it doesn’t mean they are misbehaving. That’s just the way they’re built!
I also realized that I had become so irritable, because I felt like his misbehavior was a reflection on my parenting. It felt like a failure on my part, and I felt ashamed every time my son would unmute the microphone and say something out of turn in class for the nth time. As a stay-at-home mom, all my hours spent with him should have resulted in a perfectly behaved child, right? I had no career to speak of, so my child was my career, and my parenting skills were the measure of my success.
What an awful lot of pressure to put on a 5 year-old child!
First of all, there is no room for shame in parenting (thank you to another friend who pointed this out recently). Second, as hard as it may be to accept and believe sometimes, all the work we do has value, whether the world thinks so or not. We are inherently valuable just by “being”– we touch the lives of those around us, and bring something to this world just by being in it. We all need to take a chill-pill and give ourselves (and our kids) a break sometimes.
Lastly, it is unreasonable and damaging to pin any of our hopes and dreams on our children, whether consciously or subconsciously. Let kids be kids- we need to learn to check ourselves for unhealthy behaviors and mindsets that may end up hurting us and those around us.
Let’s all stop measuring success based on worldly standards. It is a toxic and endless cycle, and unreasonably biased towards careers that bring fame or fortune. Everyone has her own place in the world. Just as a working mom is successful for raising her family while nurturing a career, so is a stay-at-home mom successful for giving up her career (and sanity) to focus on raising her family.
One does not take the way away from the other, and should not be pitted against each other, because “better” is always subjective. There are always trade-offs, because nobody can have it all. But we choose to do our best with what we have, anyway, and feel grateful for it. Each person is built differently, each situation is different, so there is no use in comparing, unless the goal is to improve one’s self without diminishing someone else’s value.
Once I realized all these, I finally got my Zen back. Kyle still has his outbursts, but they have been much calmer and easier to overcome. We still try different strategies, and what works the most for tantrums that arise over trivial things is to distract him. Lately, what works is this:
“Oh no, Kyle, nobody will buy our book. They will say it- it doesn’t work! Look at Kyle, he’s still angry all the time. He doesn’t know how to feel more than one feeling.”
“But nobody will know, Mom, because we won’t tell them!”
Distracting works, because most of the time his anger comes out of nowhere and over something so small that he doesn’t even remember it afterwards. I can’t take all the credit for this, because there are lots of factors to consider- Maybe he’s just gotten used to class; Maybe he’s just outgrown his tantrums; Maybe I was just imagining it all (*plot twist!*).
I’m always on guard because I know that one day, things will likely get out of control again. After all, parenting is a roller coaster ride, so we need to expect the unexpected. We all have our bad days and moments of weakness. What we need to realize is that our moments of weakness actually push us to grow. So here’s to our moments of weakness– may they help us find our moments of strength.
If you enjoyed this, I hope you can share it with someone who might need it.
#consciousparenting #tempertantrums #breakdowns
Photo credits to Getty Images
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