Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Parenting Confessions, Part 1

My Confession:
I thought having a family would be the easiest thing ever. I thought everything just fell into place and it was barely work, let alone hard work. How absolutely ridiculous!

In the last year of learning how to live with a surprise 4-year-old, it's come slowly but surely to me that parenting a 4-year-old isn't a natural shift. A baby, maybe. I've never had a baby so I have no knowledge of the shift one makes into parenting after a birth. But a 4-year-old is hard, tough-as-shit even. 
It's a huge change when you spend every evening sitting on the couch with your husband, watching visually gruesome television shows like Criminal Minds.

Suddenly, the most gruesome thing is a 4-year-old throwing a screaming tantrum in the middle of Target, or waving a pair of not safety scissors around (oh god, am I a terrible mother?) Forget those murderers lurking behind every bush. Suddenly, you have a 4-year-old out to get you. 

He's out to get your love. He's out to get your approval. And maybe to test your nerves, but only because he's out for attention. 

My son is out to steal my heart. He's out to challenge my knowledge (which is not near extensive enough to teach this little bigboy about everything I want him to know!) He's out for snuggles and candy and setting the tent up in the living room because he's never been camping and wants to look through the netted window and whisper about the stars. He's out to get as many Legos, Hotwheels and Batmans (Batmen?) as he can manage to get his grubby little 4-year-old fingers on.

And I want to give him all the things he's out for, but this past year, I've focused all my energy on surviving.

In the last year, we've struggled to get traction as a family. We've argued and yelled (dear lord, I hope the neighbors can't hear us!) and disagreed as parents in front of our son (bad move, mama!) We've failed to communicate. We've failed to learn because we thought we knew better. We've resisted nurturing our son when he seems to need it because our expectations were way out of proportion. And it's been hard. Like I said, we've struggled. 

But that's adopting a 4-year-old, I think. That's suddenly being a parent without the 9 month mental preparation. That's having the rug pulled out from under your feet by the best and most beautiful little guy in your life.

But it's time for my family to shift into a season where we are not just surviving, but thriving. This year is a big one. My son will be a Kindergartener in six months. And I'm a little late to the New Year motivation, but I'm okay with being late to the game, as long as I show up. 

It's time to be intentional with my family. To strengthen our routines, our relationships (parent-child, as well as husband-wife) and focus on our future, so I've started to read and read and learn. I just finished a book called Slow Family Living by Bernadette Noll that has tips on how to be more intentional in your family time by slowing down together, and I'd love to share what I've learned in another post, but for now, I just want to ask you some questions.

Question(s) For You: 
Do you make a conscious effort to live intentionally with your family? How do you strengthen your relationships and bonds? Or do you sit back and let things fall into place? Is it easy for you? What's your secret?

1 comment:

  1. It's definitely a conscious effort - I don't see how you could continue moving forward in life otherwise. It's a daily effort, too. We don't have a child but my husband and I make a point to have daily conversation, no matter how busy we get - usually we reserve supper time for this. It's a time to catch up on how our day was as well as the mundane aspects of life such as "we have to do taxes - when would be a good time to do them? should we do them together since it's our first time as a married couple?" And even as simple as those things seem, we make them so complex! Maybe I want to do them all by myself because I know (think) I can do them quicker but he wants to do them together so we can both learn. What do we do? Compromise: we will do them together this time and if it's easy one of us will just do them for the years to come.

    Learning how to deal with each other's differences and perspectives can be completely exhausting. Using your words to communicate that you don't understand or need some space or need a hug is far better than hinting at things and assuming the other person should pick up on cues. Again, it's exhausting...but so completely necessary. Your husband and child are there because you want them to be! You love them. Grow together, listen to each other, and put your reactions on hold until you can try to see things from another perspective. Learn from each other and learn together. Any argument or discussion is an opportunity to learn. Be vulnerable with each other. Choose to finally say things that you replay over and over in your head but never speak. You'll probably find that those people will love you even more for your vulnerability, not less. Remember that it's good and human to have emotions. You are 100% entitled to any emotion you feel - just make sure you take responsibility for it.

    I don't think there is a secret to any of this. I think it's just being alive. It's really hard. Hopefully this helps.