I was listening to a recent podcast of my fave parenting guru, Janet Lansbury. I long to follow her advice exactly in every moment as a parent, but probably hit it about 60-70% of the time on a very good day. Anywho, it was all about mindfulness tools for life and more specifically, in this context, to help prevent blow ups or forgive yourself when you can’t. It just so happens that I really needed to hear this today/this week/this year/in life. Go figure. And I’ll probably need to hear it many more times over and over. I’d love to be told once and become forever after zen-for-life (as I’ve mentioned), but you know it doesn’t work quite like that. Unfortunately.
There were some helpful reminders. Take a moment or several to pause throughout the day and regroup. When you’re about to lose it or have, redirect your attention to your feet to ground yourself and get out of your head. Leave notes as reminders and keep practising and flexing that mindful muscle. So simple and yet potentially transformative if put into practise. Now I just need to follow through.
The one that really hit home today, though, was about forgiveness. The Buddhist concept of the “second arrow.” Have you heard about this? I know I’m kind of late to the game here. Anyway, I’ll try my best to explain the concept in the context of parenthood. The idea is that anytime something bad happens (such as having a shit parenting moment), that pain is like being hit by an arrow. The second arrow is the ongoing suffering that can result (like the horrible guilt that follows). Here’s the thing though, that second arrow? It’s completely optional. Didn’t the first hurt enough? Heck yes it did! I guess what I’m personally taking from this idea is permission to not give the moment any more power. To be compassionate with myself. One moment does not need to define me as a parent. And hey, it might even prevent some of those future less-than-pretty mama moments if I’m not spiralling into the “I’m the worst parent in world” black hole every time. Here’s hoping.
The thing is that this whole metaphor of the second arrow exists because, while it may be optional, it is not easy to move on from painful experiences. Or stop beating yourself up. I mean you’re talking to the queen of self-flagellation over here (can you tell?), but I know everyone struggles with it to some degree. Anyway, it spoke to me. And may just help me work towards self-forgiveness the next time I have a less than stellar episode. Likely today at some point.
I’m going to be straight with you. I have multiple “moments” every day. Not all 10-alarm blow ups or anything (though they happen), but I definitely find myself regretting or questioning my reactions a few times per day. And I feel really alone and wonder if other parents are going through the same thing. Was that good boundary-setting firmness or am I damaging my child slash my relationship with said child? And then I’m like, whyyyyy are my children constantly doing stuff that requires boundary-setting? Give me a break, please! I mean (I think) Janet Lansbury might point out, 1) testing boundaries is developmentally appropriate, and 2) it’s possible my children sense my uncertainty, which simply perpetuates my need to constantly set these boundaries.
Sigh. I mean I really care so that counts for something, right?
Then there’s all that unhealthy comparing I (we all) do. There’s the obvious source aka social media, but ideas of what it means to be a “good” mother and woman are blasted at us all day long. You’re either the loving mother who only ever looks fondly at your children every second or you’re basically “the evil stepmother.” Shout out to stepmothers. Even listening to my top parenting podcast–which I often find very soothing–can be a landmine. Next to all that helpful advice I’m not always applying, I’m pretty much failing. Now I know the “perfect parent” is a myth, but I still find I categorize myself in this really black-and-white way when I have a bad moment. What’s that all about?
In those moments where I could decide not to shoot the second arrow, I take direct aim.
So here’s the nth reminder (to myself and whoever needs it) to stop comparing so much. To move on from questionable moments and try to do better next time. To forgive ourselves. And to maybe do some preventative self-care so we don’t get so overwhelmed when our kids inevitably push all our buttons.