Don’t read things that make you feel like crap

January 16th, 2015

I have one other New Year’s resolution. It’s not new for 2015. It’s more of a “continuing resolution” that I started a while back.

It goes something like this: avoid positive parenting blogs like the plague.

I don’t mean positive as in “upbeat and happy.” I mean positive as in that school of child-rearing that focuses exclusively on positive elements, affirming that children are worthy of our respect and that one of our biggest tasks as parents is to strive to communicate effectively with our kids.

Avoiding blogs on this topic might sound totally weird coming from a mommy blogger who embraces many a crunchy parenting element, including those related to discipline.

But here’s the thing. I am learning that the uber-connected parenting blogs are harmful to my emotional health. I am sure it’s unintentional. The authors of these blogs write to uplift other parents and encourage them, but their impact on me is the opposite. I always feel like crap when I read them because their ideals of parenting seem so beautiful…and so utterly unattainable.

These crazy zen mothers are always posting things like: “listen carefully to your child’s responses and carefully consider her views.”  Or “when your child acts out, the best course of action is to draw them closer – try a time-in instead of a time-out. Sit together and read a book when you feel frustrated.”

One friend* recently posted a meme from one of these blogs that contrasted “disconnecting” words with “connecting” words that you should use with your child. Disconnecting was things like: “No, I don’t want to hear that whining. It’s unpleasant” (which was deemed to convey disconnection and judgment). The better response was: “I’d like to hear you. Come sit next to me” (because this acknowledged the whining child’s needs and invited them to connect).

That’s beautiful stuff. Gorgeous. Luminous. Everything that parenting ought to be. But honest-to-god, posts like that make me want to jump out a window.

How on earth do you put something like that into practice in real-life situations? Especially when those real-life situations involve multiple children who ALL need your attention and you just don’t have the luxury of sitting down and gazing deeply into the whiner’s eyes while offering positive and affirming feedback that acknowledges her as a person.

Sometimes, you just have to say – “I’m sorry, I cannot listen to you make that sound for one second more. Leave my presence at once.”

If you’re really lucky, this pronouncement will come out as something more pleasant than a harpy-like shriek, but sometimes even that is too much to hope for. And that’s okay. No one will be scarred for life if mommy’s eyes bug out of her head occasionally.

When I read those positive parenting blogs, though, suddenly I’m confronted by this perfect version of myself. The mommy I would truly love to be. The one who is always emotionally available. Who never yells. Who has definitely never resorted to mimicking a child’s obnoxious behavior because there’s just something sickly satisfying about doing so even when you realize it’s ridiculous and counter-productive and a little bit mean.

Parenting is hard and our biggest critics are the voices in our own heads that are never, ever satisfied. It can be so easy to stagger under the weight of your own expectations and desires to be perfect. I never measure up to my own standards as a mother and reading those crazy harmonious mommas and their gentle reminders that Every Single Moment is valuable and precious and “to-be-cherished because it’s making a lasting impression on their beautiful little souls”…

…well, it makes me go stark, raving mad.

So now I try not to read that sort of stuff. I sometimes give into the temptation. It’s hard to resist an article titled – “What Kids Really Need to Thrive.”  But I’m working on it.

* Note that I like this friend a lot and she posted that particular item for herself, to remind herself of how she wants to parent, not in judgment of anyone else.

3 responses to “Don’t read things that make you feel like crap”

  1. Emily says:

    Yes, yes, yes. I am a little surprised to see you write this because of your crunchy mom credentials but it is so, so truthful. In my case with Maddie, bringing out “scary mommy” every once in a while when I need her to listen has the fantastic effect of…actually getting my point across and getting her to listen. Imagine that. Case in point, last night. Zach was on the road 3 of 5 nights this week and his flight got delayed last night, pushing him past bedtime. So, after Lia had been fussy, Zach was texting and telling me he wasn’t going to be home in an hour, and Maddie refused to eat her dinner and dropped spoonfuls onto her chair, I had enough. I kindly said we don’t do that. Then I escalted to “It makes mommy feel sad/hurt/angry when I spend time preparing dinner and you don’t eat it”.then I kicked it up a notch to “eat that and you’re not getting anything else.” I finally landed on screaming “fine, pick something else! Mommy is never feeding you again!” And I may have tossed her ELMO plate across the table for emphasis. Overkill? Maybe. But damn, it felt good and she ate the sandwich I made her after that. And her entire dinner tonight.

  2. Jaclyn B. says:

    I am also surprised to see you write this, because you always seem so patient and kind with your children. You are the type of parent I ASPIRE to be. I’m glad to hear that you aren’t perfect, and don’t expect yourself to be. I yell at my children a lot. And I am very worried that my inability to be a perfect parent or even a “good” parent is damaging my children forever. Sometimes, I just reaasure myself that I am doing the best I can, and hope for the best. ?????

  3. Kathy Lockard says:

    My favorite Trib writer – Heidi Stevens – had a post about this a while ago and I wish I had sent it to you. She says most moms feel the same way – that everyone else is perfect and they aren’t. And therefore, do not fret. (And you are a good mom, BTW.)

    I feel this way when I read articles about health. All you need to do is eat this, eat that, do this, do that, blah blah blah and you’ll never be sick from anything ever again. Sigh.

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