Sometimes we are required to let go of our fixed perspectives in parenting.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes, on our parenting journey, we get very attached to certain outcomes? I know, for me, two biggies are screen time and any new routines we’ve put in place. Once I’ve put boundaries and routine in place, I tend to get very attached and find it veeeery difficult to let go of them AT ALL! I have to be super mindful that I don’t become too attached to these outcomes, which is what I’m going to share with you all today; a couple of parenting moments I’m not proud of but that taught me a lot and illustrate beautifully why there are times that we need to step away from the outcome we want and hold space for our kids. Letting go of certain outcomes means we are required to shift our perspective to that of our young humans. The minute you do this and try and find the why behind your child’s behaviours and needs, it becomes easier to let go of that outcome and, well, shift the goalpost, if you will. You will now find yourself more able to hold space for your child as they journey their emotions in a safe space.
Here is my real-life example. So, my little ones are online schooling at the moment. Day one, we’re getting this done. “Break time” comes along, and I begin to insist that my Madi HAS to go outside and move around. I was so stuck on the fact that she absolutely had to have a break from the screen that I failed to take a moment to see where she was coming from. I failed to see her side of the coin. I failed to see that she desperately wanted and needed to connect with her peers, that are also online, during break time. Forcing her out of the room and off the screen caused her major distress and me major frustration as she spent her break melting down rather than moving around and enjoying her downtime. I could write another entire blog about how peers become front and centre for children when they approach their tween years. The need to connect and be accepted by their peers is very real. Unfortunately, I didn’t stop for a second to be even vaguely mindful of her needs. I was stuck on breaking the screen time bla bla bla, because we are all so hyper aware of how bad this is for our kids (talk about a rock and a hard space!). I’m grateful I had a second chance the following day. And I’m grateful for my daughter’s forgiving heart. I had to sit her down later in the day and apologise for my short-sightedness. I explained that it was my mommy heart that sometimes worries too much; that I don’t always react the way I should. In her infinite wisdom, she said it was okay and that it was in the past, and she wasn’t worried about it anymore. I had a tear. We moved on.
I’d like to mention here that, as parents, we can’t get it right all the time. The important thing is the repair work we do after we have reacted (or overreacted!). It teaches our children that we, too, make mistakes – and that it is okay. It shows them that it is also okay to be vulnerable and apologise from the heart. This, in itself, is a life lesson for our small people. They need to know it’s okay to not be perfect.
So as day two rolled around … Come break time, she again asked if she can please chat to her friends online during break. I allowed it this time, being more conscious of the why behind her request. And what unfolded was a happy little girl who got to giggle and connect with her peers. This version of downtime worked for her. This time connecting with her peers lowered her lockdown frustration levels, therefore she was ready for the next online school task at hand when the time came. I have found great connection moments during “school” time with Madi over these online school days, both this year and last. But connection comes so much easier when we are able to be conscious of our child’s needs and hold space appropriately.
This experience required me to break through my absolute belief that too much screen time is detrimental and that she had to have a break from the screen at “break time”. I had to let go of my outcome and really change my perspective. Sometimes parenting requires us to let go of our fixed positions and beliefs and be in the moment. And sometimes (only sometimes) screen time is actually okay!
Let go of the need to control the outcome. Trust your intuition. Trust yourself.
At the moment we are camping at the coast. This time camping is different. There was somebody in the camp who tested positive for Covid and suddenly all of us felt afraid, angry even. We felt we "ran" from home to be peaceful and safe. And suddenly it was shattered. They left after a couple of days and the sigh of relieve was palpable. We survived. It did not spread to anybody else. All of us talked about the Covid and how worried we are. Will South Africa get through this? How many people we know have to die until this is over? We shared stories of how many people have lost their fight against Covid already.
Then the fires started to rage. The news reports of looting and riots started to flood in... and the panic grew in the camp. These uncertain times bring so many emotions and questions. We were hardly coping with the 3rd wave of Covid hitting our country, when lawlessness struck...
Campers started to gather, sharing the information each one had. We were talking about where the riots are. Who will be affected in what way? Who had enough food? Who was safe?
It was quickly apparent who will work for the very best of the whole camping community and who wouldn't. I have a choice where I can focus. I choose to focus on these who will build the community.
We went to the shops yesterday to see if we can find a little bit of food to carry us a little longer in case we cannot go home because of the road closures. Women were in the shop with trolleys, panic buying. They overtly spoke about how scared they were. I went slowly through the aisles, observing what is left and what could be helpful. There wasn't much left anyhow. But what I did feel ample of, was the fear. I bought bits and bobs. Things to tie us over should we need it. I got back into my vehicle and looked at my children and husband. Something was stirring in my heart but I did not have the words yet to express it.
The question started to develop in me: what can I do for my family as the mother of this unit? Three words came up for me - selfcare, honesty and consistency.
Talk, talk, talk about your fears. Take care that you do not become trapped in your own mind with anxiety. Connect with yourself and keep tabs of where your anxiety levels are. Do special things to replenish your energy and take back every ounce of control you do have over your own life.
Gentle honesty can go a long way. Explain to children what is happening in your area. They hear the news when you talk to other adults. That is adult conversations and it can become very scary because it doesn't make sense to our children. Get down to their appropriate level and be kind.
Consistency - the biggest gift you can give your children (and yourself) is sticking with your normal ways of doing things. Stick to the routines and habits you have established. Keep your life as predictable as possible.
In the campsite we are making groups of who needs to leave when. Also we have started to establish points where we can phone to check of the roads are open or not. We decided travelling in numbers are safer than alone. Complete strangers are making plans together to increase everyone's safety.
I am reminded of the beauty of being human, because in the face of adversity, came the unity of taking care of each other. And in that I find solace.