Bugger. The days where you feel like a useless fraud because you can't get your shit together right now. Bloody hell but those days are tough. The ones where you are convinced you're wrecking your kids, and that everything you do is just making things worse. And also, why am I even attempting to follow this ridiculous respectful parenting path anyway, since it clearly isn't working, as my kids are obviously unfeeling, disrespectful delinquents who never listen to a word I say anyway* - and it's all my fault.
Tell me it's not just me.
Now for a quick spoiler alert: this post does get better. But some days, it's just all about how impossibly hard it is, and how nothing's ever going to change, and and and…
I support and guide a community of parents who, like me, are striving to be the most responsive, respectful, connected parents they can possibly be. And, honestly, it's pretty galling to admit that I too still have awful days like these. Don't get me wrong - this is a group of exceptionally understanding and non-judgemental people, and I make no secret of the fact that I'm not perfect by any means. But when you've done enough homework to generally know what some of the answers are - what you should be doing when your kids are going at each other like cat and dog, or when no one wants to tidy up, or whatever the latest craze is - and when you're supposed to be supporting others to implement those 'answers', it can feel a teensy bit frustrating (not to mention fraudulent) when you can't actually make those answers materialise for yourself. Imposter syndrome much?
So, what have I learnt about those hard hard days, when everything seems bleak and relentless and impossible to tackle?
Well, I've learnt that those days will, in all likelihood, keep coming - for me at least. But with that, I am able to notice that they have, over time, got fewer and further between. I also find now that I am able to see things much more clearly for what they are - that I might feel like my children are out to get me, or like there's no end in sight, but I can recognise, even in the moment, that that's not the reality.
And, most importantly, I have learnt something about what to actually do, in the moment, on those days that you just can't wait to see the back of.
And it is simply to remember this:
'I can't change anything right now'
Or, slightly more poetically (and perhaps with fewer negative connotations):
'This is the way it is right now'
What I'm talking about here is acceptance. Not the resigning-myself-to-my-fate, doom-and-gloom sort of acceptance, but instead a hopeful, forward-looking, getting unstuck sort of acceptance. If I can sit, in those supremely challenging moments, with the feelings that come up for me ('this is impossible' 'nothing will ever change' 'I've wrecked my kids' - whatever it might be), but not be simultaneously faced with the burden of having to change it right now, I can find a little peace.
And that little bit of peace - that knowledge that, aside from keeping everyone safe (I often seem to be sat in between two off-track children at these moments), I don't need to actually do anything right away, can help me ride the storm until it passes. And it always passes.
Just think of the alternative - and we've all been there - we are going to encounter plenty of undesirable moments in our time as parents, and some of these moments are not going to make us feel good. We can either notice the feelings, and accept that that is the way it is right now, or we can feel the hard stuff and try to make changes right away. And actions that come from a place of bad feeling, of seeming desperation, tend not to be the most constructive, most intentional, or most useful actions we can take.
So I am learning to sit with what's hard, to feel everything I need to - even if I have to put on hold acting out those feelings until I'm in a more appropriate place - and wait until I am ready to take action to move forwards. Sometimes I'm just not ready right there and then - and that's ok too.
I am not going to lie to you - it is not pleasant. Feeling all the gunk that comes in those moments when you're convinced you're the worst parent on the face of the earth, like you're failing your precious children, is extremely uncomfortable. Neither does this ability come overnight - mindfulness practice, Listening Partnerships (which is where I clear out all the emotional baggage afterwards), writing, and the support of our most courageous community have meant everything to me on this journey.
As it stands, I still have a lot more travelling along this path that I'd like to do - but I am able to see how far I've come, and I'm able to sit with the discomfort of not being where I'd like to be. In other words, I can now recognise that I am exactly where I need to be, and from there, I can keep inching forwards. And I can't ask for more than that.
If you are in need of support like this, and are not already a part of our wonderful community, please do feel free to join us - or if we are not quite to your taste for whatever reason, find (or build) your own community; it takes time but it can be done, and you will not regret it for a moment.
*Just in case anyone isn't clear, this is not at all what I believe about my kids (or even about myself!) - I am merely describing the thoughts associated with the feelings that arise when things are not going well.