I’m working on a new writing project: a parenting book. Woo-hoo! Pass the wine and insert the “Uh-oh” emoji here.
You know, because it feels like the minute you share parenting stuff, it’s like setting off the Mission Impossible theme music while lighting a stick of dynamite for your entire world to explode.
I’m not interested in engaging Murphy’s law so that my kids can go sideways just in time for the book release, so I’ve decided this will be my tack: I’m not the expert. I’m experienced. Somewhat experienced.
Experienced enough, with enough time under my belt to be able to share a mix of good stuff and mistakes (aka “life lessons”) to add to the goodness of your life, too.
A little background: My first experience with kids? I was one.
Believe it or not, we all have a vast amount of qualification just from living on the receiving end of parenting styles that may or may not have worked. It’s usually some mix of both.
I wasn’t just the oldest sister of three girls but also a babysitter of neighbors and friends in my teens, then in my 20’s I took care of the little ones at church services and Mom’s morning out, while I was also a music specialist at a school for K-8th grade.
I led choirs, recording projects, lessons, and camps for another 15 years.
Kids. Kids. Kids. Kids.
And while all of that prepares you for parenting the truth is that really, none of it does.
How did I know that?
Thirteen years into my 30 year marriage, we had our first son. Less than two years later, our second.
But honestly, all of the pre-babies experience just didn’t prepare me for the exhaustion.
The profound, relentless, mind-numbing, soul-crushing, anxiety-producing, there’s-not-enough-coffee-in-the-world and Calgon-lied-so-where’s-the-wine, no-wait-the-vodka, exhaustion.
It kind of reminds me of one of those personal growth seminars where they get you there at the crack of dawn and keep you there until midnight for four days in a row. Why? To psychologically wear you down and exhaust you so that they can plant new ideas in your brain.
Only it’s worse with parenting. Because you have to operate heavy machinery (like cars, and blenders, and the 16 remote controls for your TV) and have small wide-awake, Energizer Bunny children blinking innocently and expectantly in your direction.
You know what their super power is?
They can scream and cry and scream some more and never EVER lose their voice.
All while you feel like you have shards of glass in your eyes and can’t remember why you put your car keys in the freezer.
And even though I’m saying it didn’t help to be around so many kids, the truth is that it did. It’s just really different having your own. So, here’s where all that kid-time really helped me in two key areas:
Helped me to know some things to do really well (we’ll go into that another time…)
And some judgments I had that were really strong.
Let’s start there.
Because, seriously: There is no better person to break the solid cement of judgment where your feet are firmly stuck, than your children.
They can reduce you to tears and out of your inflated ego with how they embarrass you like oh, I don’t know… when they practice their new swear words (that you didn’t know they knew) in front of your new boss… or better yet, your pastor.
So, that’s why they bring the exhaustion component with them. It’s one of their tools for breaking you down…
… so that you’ll be willing to let go of your judgments about your friends, teachers, coaches, and of course, your own mom and dad.
You finally acquiesce from night after night of having your child’s elbows and knees (which should be registered as lethal weapons) digging into your face, breasts, and ribs, while your side of the bed is slowly becoming drenched with the distinct (and yet, not altogether unpleasant) warmth of fresh urine from a sleeping child, which makes YOU have to get up and pee so you get out of bed and head to the bathroom where the dog puked on the new rug you just bought while your child had a massive meltdown in Target.
It’s just an endless parade of good times that no one could have ever prepared you for.
And it’s an especially good time to wave the little white flag and say, “I surrender.”
At which point, we start letting go.
Letting go of the way we thought we would parent when we finally got the chance to do it perfectly.
Letting go of the ideas other people have about us.
Letting go of the one perfect way we think someone should raise, discipline, feed, and educate their child.
We don’t let go of all of it right away… some of it takes years… but the exhaustion gives us the initial opportunity to start letting go because the pressure is, honestly, just too heavy to hold on to when you’re that tired.
Judgment is filled with heavy pressure.
And it’s really one of the first things that we need to let go of in order to do the one thing we need most to do when we parent.
And that is:
We’re going to talk about Listening next week, but before we get there, we need to address judgment.
You know why?
Because it talks to you all day long.
It drags you around, while it belittles you and mocks you and makes you doubt yourself.
It’s like a non-stop chatty terrorist that keeps your mind consumed and distracted so that you can’t be present to your hubby, kids, and life.
You couldn’t criticize yourself so unmercifully
If you didn’t judge yourself so harshly.
So, how are you going to let go?
Step 1: You notice it
Saying what you see is the first step in healing. Once you notice yourself acting like Simon Cowell about your parenting, you notice it and say, “Oh look! I’m doing it again.”
Step 2: You thank it
Why? Because it’s like someone giving you directions. You’re lost, they tell you where to go, you say, “Thanks for the information!” Because judgment is a signpost pointing you to truth.
What is the truth?
You don’t feel safe.
You don’t feel safe because you don’t feel qualified. And you’re afraid that, in your hands, you will ruin everything — including your child. And you can live with a lot of mess-ups and mistakes (do we need to talk about that permed pink hair after you saw that John Waters film? Or how about that morning you woke up in your 20’s next to the guy whose last name you didn’t know and you felt really bad until you realized you didn’t know his first name, either?)
And here, suddenly, you are responsible for a LIFE.
Yeah. That’s scary when you think about it too long, so your brain came up with a way to not think about it. Very effective. Except, you know, that it’s not. Because you get so freaked out about how you’re going to raise a child for 18 years when you can’t even take care of your neighbor’s plant for 3 weeks and believe it or not, that’s part of where the judgment is coming from:
From the fear of the massive consequences of your proven past inadequacies or fear of the massive potential consequences of future inadequacies.
So, you thank the judgment for showing you what’s really going on: That you’re afraid. So, you exhale the big breath you were holding and…
Step 3: You become willing
Willingness is magic. To be able to stop saying, “I really want to… (fill in the blank) and to instead say, “I am willing…” Is an absolute game-changer.
Willing to see yourself and others through a different lens than you had. Willing to see the good in you and in the people you formerly judged when you had more time and energy to hang onto that heavy weight of judgment.
Willing to let go of having to figure out the next 18 years and then…
Step 4: You release and trust
I can’t do all 18 years in one day. That’s like trying to eat a buffet experience in one course. It’s just not going to happen and if I tried it would make me sick and I’d have no joy. This is a one course at a time kind of feast. Just like your plate at a buffet has a bunch of different items, so does your day. And just like you don’t swallow a potato whole, you take a bite… so you will do with your day. You chew and savor and do just what you can do right now to be the present, learning, growing, parent that you are.
So, I don’t know where you are in the parenting cycle — whether you’re pregnant or have a newborn, toddler, pre-teen or teen… but I can tell you this:
Letting go of judgment will serve you in any of those ages and beyond.
Are you breathing a little easier yet? Let me know if you are and meet me here next week with your coffee, tea or CBD and we’ll take on the value of listening.
You’re going to get a lot out of this series and so am I.
Thanks for hanging out together.