From the arm chair in my bedroom, I sit looking out of the nearly floor to ceiling windows at the giant snowflakes that are falling from the sky. They join the previously fallen flakes and pieces of ice creating a tranquil wintry scene. I can recall with vivid imagery, similar scenes from my childhood. I grew up in Virginia, in a cabin in the woods (yes, like a character from a Laura Ingalls Wilder book but with electricity and running water). On nights when the snowfall was heavy, I recall opening the front door and turning the flood lights on so I could get a good look. The undisturbed blanket of snow looked soft and glittered under the light. The branches, which hung lower than usual, also seemed to shimmer in their coat of ice. If I listened carefully, I could hear the snow falling. It was a soft and faint sound, but it always brought a sense of peace and contentment over me.
I would love to hear that sound again. To feel that sense of calm wash over me. But my 7 year-old is having a meltdown, so alas, nothing else can be heard. I have been considering her behavior a lot lately – wondering if there is an underlying clinical reason for the disruption or if I am simply suffering the unintended consequence of placating her during her early years (before her Sensory Processing Disorder diagnosis) as a means of trying to keep the peace in the house. Her latest tactic involves yelling that she hates me or informing me that I must hate her. I swear nothing will break your heart like your child telling you that, whether you think they actually mean it or not.
I have recently begun the parenting class provided by Positive Parenting Solutions. It feels a bit silly to be honest; I’m a mother of three girls, two of whom have made it nearly to adulthood without my taking a parenting class (although, maybe I should have). But I am at my wits end. The tantrums and bedtime struggles, fights over my attention and whining are disrupting our family. Worse than that, I know my 7-year-old can feel the frustration from everyone in the family, but she’s too young to understand that we dislike her behavior and not her personally. I worry what damage that could cause. I feel it’s important to note that I do have an appointment at the end of the month to have her tested for an underlying cause for her outbursts. But until then, I am clinging to the life line I threw myself with this parenting class.
In sharp contrast to my parenting struggles with my youngest, my two oldest girls are coming into their own and thriving. They’re hard working, hilarious, smart, thoughtful humans and I am proud of them both every single day. My struggle now is an internal one. How do I let go? How do I transition from hands-on parent to mentor? How do I balance letting my kids know I am here for them and that I always have their backs and not hovering or interfering. I will say with complete transparency that therapy has helped with this a bit. Understanding that what I think my kids need in any given moment and what they actually need may not be the same. And that I have to let them create their own way in life, even when my own experiences cause warning signals to go off inside my head. My path will not be the same as theirs. Mentorship parenting means that I am called upon to support them and offer guidance when asked. It also means learning to say less and listen more, because sometimes they don’t want advice, just a sounding board.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It will test your patience and sheer will in ways you never imaged possible. It will cause your heart to burst with love and pride and break at words like “I hate you!” Your ability to grow with a relationship will be challenged and you won’t always get it right. You’ll feel guilty and lose confidence in yourself. You’ll love them more than life itself and that will both invigorate and terrify you. But if you are willing to ride the roller coaster, it’s absolutely worth it.