Sorry, Kids—Just Tell Your Therapist One Day

Every morning is a new day in a mom’s world. The wrongs of the prior day are always washed anew with the breaking of the dawn (and sometimes pre-dawn, for those of us with littles). And every night, we mamas go to sleep thinking about what went on throughout the day and what we could have done differently. The noise fades, those tiny eyes close, and we are left with yet another chance tomorrow.

Some of us lie there thinking. Some of us pass out. Some us roll our eyes, pour some wine, and let the day just be done already. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right, Clarkson? And then there is me. I’m usually left thinking to myself that at the very least, I’m giving my kids great material to share with their therapist one day.

Today’s generation of kids are only as good as the generation of mothers raising them. And quite frankly, I think most of us are doing a pretty darn good job. However, I’ve definitely got some work to do. I still raise my voice out of frustration, I still lose my cool over things that aren’t really that big of a deal, and sometimes—yes, sometimes—I’m too hard on them. I even feed them Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese and chicken nuggets. But always with some fruit, so I figure I’m pretty awesome.

But in all seriousness, I know that I’m not alone in this constant “Am I screwing up these kids?” worry.  So, I constantly ask God for yet another do-over. It usually looks something like this:

Hi God, it’s me. About today… It was mostly good, right? Sorry about the adult time-out I needed/took in the pantry. But, I think that was a step up from throwing the shoes out the back door because of all the sand he dumped on the stairs. Seriously, why all the sand? Thanks for hanging in there with me. I know you’ll lead them to a great therapist one day. Until then, thanks for giving me these babies, and may I please have another chance? Thanks in advance. Amen.

Yet, five minutes into the next day I’m already losing it over the blue toothpaste that can’t quite seem to find its way into their mouths (but does an excellent job of sticking onto my counter). Or perhaps I make it all the way until the car ride to school without barking an order that I’m fairly certain is too strict for their age. So, what’s my deal? I think I know.

Raising this generation of kiddos is scary. With the news and the research and the health issues in our faces all day, every day, I’m definitely feeling the heat to raise self-sufficient, non-whiny kids. Independent, but empathetic to others. Communicative and open-minded, but aware of boundaries. It’s hard to be a kid these days, but I venture to say it’s harder to raise one. As a result, I think I often take out the stress of raising a good kid on an already good kid. Which often leaves me wide-eyed and worried when I should be sleeping. The irony? I’m actually a therapist, so I know what this is supposed to look like. So, instead of getting worked up and needing my own therapist, I talk to them about it frequently—you know, in kid terms:

Me: “You know yesterday when mommy got upset with you for dilly-dallying on the way to the car when I asked you twice to get in?”

Kid #1: “Yeeeeep. I’m sorry, but my Pinkie Pie was stuck in the drawer and she wanted to come out and be next to the window waiting for me when I came home. Also, she was hungry and needed to eat.” 

Me: [insert gigantic internal eye roll] “Mmmkay, yes. Well, Mommy really needs you to listen because I genuinely don’t like having to repeat myself and starting the day frustrated with you. It’s totally not working for me. Is it working for you?”

Kid #1: “Nope. Especially when I’m trying to get Pinkie Pie out. That’s a lot for me to do.”

Me: Stare into space and swallow hard, Erin. You can do hard things. “OK, well, I’m super sorry that I got frustrated. I know that’s important to you, but you also need to do what I ask when I ask it. Pinkie Pie needs to be found before we’re walking out the door. How can we work on this so that it’s better for both of us?”

Kid #1: “I can do better listening tomorrow and you can do better at patience. And also, don’t worry, I won’t be late because there are some people way later than me. And my teacher doesn’t care because she’s really nice. And also, did you pack me a dessert today?”

I’ll take it. It’s a step in the right direction, and I feel like it’s progress…until the next morning when I’ll be darned if Pinkie Pie went missing again. That horse is trouble.

However, what begins to happen in my head is this understanding that I might never get it 100% right, even though most days I might come pretty close. And the “tell your therapist” comment is really me feeling vulnerable about my parenting and thinking someone else might be able to “fix it” later. (Although I strongly believe that if we all had a moment in our week to talk it out with a good therapist, we’d be in a much better place.)

Our vulnerability makes us good parents. It brings us back to the drawing table each evening to figure things out for the next day. Self-critique and awareness help us and our kiddos. Sometimes our best is actually—wait for it—good enough. For us parents, the hard stuff might always be hard. We correct what we can, talk it out, apologize, hug it up, and move on. That’s the way this is going to work, and quite frankly, I’m OK with that.

So I kind of kid when I say, “Just tell your therapist one day,” and I also kind of hope that I’m teaching them to think things out and communicate their needs, too. Maybe in the grand scheme of things my moments of weakness will become teaching moments that they learn from in their own ways and do, in fact, gain some self-awareness and independence. Yeah, let’s go with that.

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