Saturday, 15 April 2017

A Teachable Moment

Do you ever have those parenting moment so when your child says something that stops you mid-discussion & makes you realize that you don't really know what the hell you are doing? I know you do, we all do. Today I had one of those moments. In fact I've been having more & more of them as my children get older, they challenge me as a mom & my thinking in ways I never know they were capable of.

The girls have been fighting ALOT lately & I often find myself unsure of how to handle it, so I go to my automatic responses without really thinking about it, usually facing a sea self-doubt. It usually results in one of them coming to me, tattling on the other & me contemplating whether it is worth intervening & proceeding from there. Today Lucy came to me with a complaint that Scarlett pushed her & she fell & hit her head. I called Scarlett up to discuss, learnt the other side of the story& deemed them both guilty parties. So I concluded the fairest way to settle it would be by having them apologize to each other & move on. Sounds pretty simple, right? After Lucy's somewhat genuine apology, Scarlett snarled "I'm sorry" with that six-going-on-thirteen attitude that she's perfected as of late. I 'told' her to say it like she meant it, & she offered a half-hearted obligatory apology to suffice. Then she turned to me & said, "You shouldn't make someone say they are sorry." I felt my guard creep up and asked, "Oh? Why's that?" "Because it doesn't come from the heart." Floored. I knew she was right but all I could do to reply was mumble something about manners & how she should try harder to feel sorry then. I'm sure this could have been a great teaching moment. I'm sure there were a dozen or alternate responses that would have been better choices. My parenting abilities had been challenged by my six year old.  I took the  shame I felt for myself & redirected it towards her.  Not my proudest parenting moment.

So fast forward to the end of the day, the kids are in a deep sleep & the husband is on night shift. I find myself reflecting on this incident & feeling pretty crummy how it all went down. When confronted, I struggle with responding & find myself frozen in place when I don't know how to handle a situation. Looking for help, I turn to the internet for answers (my critical awareness goggles in tact) & am seeing some consistency in answers to my search: forcing your child apologize. Ok in retrospect, I realize this wording is going to lead to some one sided results, but I guess I was seeking some alternative solutions for my situation. The one that struck me most, & most fitting in the current direction I am striving toward as a parent, was to model apology for your children. I am coming to understand that the most important & effective way to raise our children is to model within ourselves the values we want to teach them. Or as Brene Brown writes in Daring Greatly (which, coincidently, I just finished reading today), 'to be the adults we want our children to grow up to be.'

So I'm still not really sure exactly how I should have responded to my child's statement but I think it has something to do with admitting that she was right & that I should have handled it differently (I guess I mean with an apology?) And perhaps involving the two of them in a brainstorming session about how we can do it differently in the future (empathy). Maybe this is a discussion to extend into tomorrow. As for today...I suppose this teachable moment was actually meant for me.


Wednesday, 12 April 2017


So I've been exploring the idea of self-compassion lately. It seems like such a simple concept & makes me wonder why it is something that I need to work at, since it fits in with the way I want to see the world. But I've been living a life somewhat contradictory to self-compassionate. This new venture started when I began to recognize ways my habits & perspective were getting in the way of my own happiness. Understanding that the constant criticism I put on myself was not making me strive to be better, but only knocking me over, again & again. I imagine this as an invisible wall that will only allow me to go so far in my potential. I can see past the wall but I can't seem to get through it.

This becomes pretty evident when I look back at my achievements. If I were to list them on paper, compared to average, they are pretty impressing. But in my head, this lingering sense of 'never good enough' clings to these accomplishments. And I realized that it didn't matter how successful I became in any area of life I never felt like it was enough, which would lead to a constant frustrated state, wondering if ever feeling good enough was even possible for me.

Motherhood has Really highlighted this attitude & how it affects me. In a conversation with a friend a couple months ago I was expressing my frustrations of my inability to handle the every day stuff, when I was told that I had been disregarding the life I had worked hard to build up to that point & was only focusing on what was going wrong. This perspective was clouding my judgement on myself as a mother, and it didn't seem to matter how many times I had been told I was an exceptional mother by my loved ones, I never could believe it for myself. I realized that this had less to do with my parenting abilities & more to do with the way I saw myself. I realized that it was me that had to change inside if I wanted to find a happier life. And it had something to do with self-love. This is where self-compassion comes in, something that  I've learnt is a very important factor in practicing self-love.

It was a concept I had started to form in my own mind, when I came across the works of Brene Brown, & through one of her books was led to a website called, which I have only just started to explore. It has meditations that have helped me to calm my mind on sleepless nights & inspiring videos explaining what self-compassion is & why it is important. It has become an important tool in my every day to recognizing how critical I can be with myself & how the negative self-talk affects my emotions, thoughts & behaviour.

This was put to a small test a couple days ago. Our oldest was at school & I was out running errands with my husband &  two youngest. After loading the groceries & the yelling baby into the van, my husband says "Oh yeah, we have to be home in time for Scarlett. What time is it." Instant regret & panic simultaneously rushed over me when I looked at my phone to see it was 3:48. To make matters worse, it was an early dismissal day, so Scarlett had been out of school for over an hour. She would have walked home from school to find the door locked & nobody home...

I immediately called the neighbours to see if she had gone next door, a plan we had made when she started walking home on her own. Thankfully she had, she was safe & in good hands. My inner-critic immediately went to shaming thoughts of 'I'm a terrible mother' & feelings of inadequacy. My husband, in the drivers seat beside me, who has not been 'blessed' with tendency towards perfectionism, was calmly contemplating whether she would be upset or not. And even though we were equally responsible for this mishap, I could tell he wasn't facing the same inner-battle as I had been so I decided to give his approach a shot. Instead of talking to myself about what a mistake I had made (which it was simply that, a mistake) I thought about how I would speak to a good friend if this happened to them (or what my friends might say to me) & started telling myself this is something that jus took about anyone could see themselves doing & everyone makes mistakes. I took it a notch further & started explaining out loud to my husband the inner struggle I was facing & how I was working on it. He pointed out that I did a great thing by talking to her about what to do in this situation in advance & she followed through. I went from being a terrible mom to a great mom in a mere five minutes. By the time we got home I was able to laugh about the situation. In fact I even  forgot about most of the day except when someone would crack a joke about it.  Had I not taken this approach I would probably still be beating myself up for it 3 days later. In the end, everyone was ok, intact, probably a little better for it.

Changing self-talk habits took a lot of energy at first, as I found myself circling back to old ways of self-sabitoge, but the more I practice, the more I see how effective it is & the more automatic it becomes. Most of all it has allowed me to let go of many the unrealistic expectations of the perfectionist in me & the pressure that comes with it. Although it takes a lot of deliberation, this 'I am good enough' state of mind feels quite liberating. Don't get me wrong, I still go back to those old habits, and I think it is pretty human to do so. And I'll even admit there is that little part of me that is afraid to let go of those expectations in the fear that I might settle for mediocracy. But what I do know is my old way of thinking was anything but liberating. So I am working at finding that balance between healthy expectations & reprieve, the most nurturing environment for self-compassion to thrive in.  I really do think being kind to oneself is so important in fulfillment, but in reality it can be a real challenge, especially in a culture that counteract the value of it in so many ways. Especially for those of us that have spent years being so critical of ourselves. But it takes mindfulness, intention & effort, which I believe will be totally worth it in the end.