Monday, March 08, 2010

How I learned to toss out the books and just raise my damn kids

This post has been a long time coming. I finally--FINALLY-- learned what should have been rule number one when it comes to raising kids: I don't need any damn books or classes to tell me how to do it.

I realize that many of you are sitting there snickering as you're reading this and have just smacked your hand against your forehead while uttering "DUH."

You see, I have this interesting affliction where I pretty much can't do anything without second-guessing myself, parenting included. Surely, I figured, the experts know this stuff better than I do and if I read enough and seek enough outside advice my kids will pretty soon turn in to these picture-perfect little creatures. Again, duh, how wrong I was.

Recently I bitched and moaned about how much I felt like the parenting class I was taking had really let me down. I do believe my exact words were, on more than one occasion, "this is bullshit". What I was attempting to do was force MY kids to fit in to someone else's mold of how this whole thing should work. Like there was some system where if you follow all of the steps, out pops Wally and the Beav.

It felt like I was getting angry and frustrated trying to follow what I deemed to be a set of rules and regulations and nothing was changing-- well, at least for the better. I was getting more stressed. My kids, Eloise in particular, were acting worse than ever. The screaming in our house escalated and I was faced with more situations than ever where I worked at not "flipping my lid". I guess it's a good thing we learned that trick on night one of the class because dear lord, did I ever need it over the next six weeks.

And let me be clear, I am not saying that the class was bad. No, no, no. Rather, it wasn't the right class for me. In fact, no class is right for me, because no teacher teaches a class that focuses directly on MY kids and what MY issues are. This is what we pay our therapist for, you see.

The morning after the last class the director of my daughter's school pulled me in to her office (sort of-- at least, that's what it felt like) to find out what I was so pissed off about. I started crying. I explained to her that I felt like I was doing everything by the book and yet everything was getting worse. It was during this conversation that it finally occurred to me, with some gentle nudging from our director, that I needed to do what was right for my kids, not what someone else told me was right. That I needed to follow my heart and take the parts of the advice that worked and leave the parts that didn't. Oh, but I protested, the information was so convincing that this SURELY was the right way to parent.

And she reminded me that my kids are awesome. They aren't a pile of problems needing to be fixed. Sure, they have issues, but holy cow, there is so very very very much more to them. How sad is it that in the last few weeks I've focused so much more on their problems than their attributes? That I've become so frustrated with this set of guidelines not working that I missed that my kids are really crazy awesome?

What was happening here is that I wasn't seeing the forest for the trees, so to speak.

My dear friend posted a message to me on Facebook as I was complaining about all of this last week. Part of her note said "It's difficult if you are intuitive AND easily influenced by others" and I felt like she hit the nail on the head for me, except for I've lost touch with that intuitive part of myself. I have two kids that are extremely different and both difficult to parent for different reasons. I felt like when they were babies all of my attachment parenting stuff came very intuitively to me, but not that they are growing older, I've started floundering and grasping for answers. So then once I started floundering I started looking outside of myself for the answers and getting frustrated when the answers I found weren't working.

All of this isn't to say I don't need any help and support because, believe me, I do, but it's going to come from speaking to people who know my kid, who know our situation, who know how to help US. And that IS the help that is working to change things. And, to be honest, alot of the change is me. Just today I had a meeting about Iris with Iris's therapist, her teacher and the school's director. You know what the take-home message was? That I needed to let go more, to give Iris her space to do her thing, to flourish at school. Yes, I need to keep up the routines and all of that, but besides that, I need to back the heck off. To trust my daughter and trust the school and know that it's all going to be fine. That my kid wouldn't benefit from me being overly involved in her school life because it wouldn't allow her the space she needs to create who she is, seperate from me. Crazy, huh?

So I was thinking I have a new book idea. The title is going to be "put down this damn book and stop trying to fix your kids, because they are awesome." I suppose the problem with that is that I wouldn't have any text it in. Hard to pitch that to an agent.


  1. However it would make a brilliant board book :) Good for you.

  2. Great post, I totally agree. What an awesome opportunity to learn about yourself! It seems like the older my kid gets, the learning is all for ME. :)

  3. wow. this is really insightful sybil, thank you! it sounds like you are well on your way dear, and that you are surrounded by amazing people. and i agree that your kids are crazy awesome too :)

  4. Amen, Sister! I keep telling a couple of my friends who are pregnant or have new babies that babies really aren't as hard as a lot of people say they are so not to worry. What I think I really mean to say is that it's when they become kids it gets REALLY hard! I find myself just baffled on some days as to what to do. But you're doing great and I think I am too!

  5. You ladies are awesome. Thank you for being so amazingly supportive. You all rock, too.

  6. I need to read that book! lol

    Well, all I can say from talking with you and reading your blog and seeing you in action is that you do seem very aware and intuitive, and if it took this frustrating class for you to reconnect with that, and with your confidence in your parenting, then good thing you took the class. Just to show you you didn't need the class. Sounds backwards, but it worked, right?

    I won't give you any advice on your kids, because I don't have any since I'm not there myself yet. I'll just say from remembering my mom's experience raising my older brother and me that it is hard when your two kids are completely different in temperament and behavior, as we were. She had to do things that didn't seem "fair" to accommodate each of our needs.

    I'm glad that you're taking a step back and seeing once more the beauty in each of your girls. I'll look forward to seeing your parenting journey continue to unfold.


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