I yelled at Jack last night. Truth is I yell at Jack a lot. I can honestly say that barely a day goes by when I don’t snap at my little boy. I can tell when the days are going to be bad. I can feel it in my bones. I’m holding onto anger and resentment and negativity. The worst part about it is that I am aware I am doing it. Awareness is half the battle. Being aware of thoughts and feelings allows us to choose differently. There are a lot of days when I am aware of my negative thoughts and feelings, I am aware that I can make a choice and I still do not make the choice to let go. I hold on tight to that negativity. Blaming everyone else in the world, blaming the situations that arise, blaming the little boy that I brought into this world. Blaming everyone but myself.
Last night Jack was having a hard time going to sleep. Not an uncommon occurrence around here. He was nursing for hours. I was tired and hormonal and the nursing started to get to me. I was getting annoyed. I felt my anger growing. I said “go to sleep! I can’t take it anymore! I’m tired!” My boy doesn’t understand. All he knows is that he doesn’t feel like sleeping. All he knows is his own experience. Finally I was so frustrated that I let out a loud “uuuuuggggghhhhhh!!!!!!” It scared him. He cried. In that moment I wanted to die. I knew I was escalating to nowhere good. I knew I had a choice to let it go. I knew I was going to end up making everything worse. It’s like back before Jack when I would get mad and toss things around my room. I knew I was mad and was going to break something. But I just kept going, acting like a brat, knowing all the while that the other shoe was going to drop and then everything would be so much worse. And then I would feel so much guilt, regret and self-hatred that I knew all along what was going to happen and still didn’t stop myself.
Except now I have Jack. And now I know a level of guilt, regret and self-hatred that I never knew existed. A broken piece of jewelry? A broken glass? Who gives a shit about that stuff? Now I break my son’s trust. I scare him. And he’s so confused. So scared. He holds on tighter to me. Because I am the one who is supposed to protect him. The one he goes to when he is scared. And yet I am the one confusing and scaring him.
Sometimes I think I need to drop the whole “gentle parenting” aspect of this blog because I am a phony. A fraud. I can’t hack it. But I choose every day to keep going. I’ve learned that gentle parenting has nothing at all to do with Jack. Jack will do as he does because that is all he knows. Gentle parenting is about me. Jack is my motivation to work harder on myself, but it’s me and me alone that has the work to do. I need to grow the fuck up. I need to let go when I know it’s time to let go of that anger. I need to suck it up and realize it’s not me tossing shoes around my bedroom anymore. Now there’s a person I might break. A person who depends on me for everything. A person who no matter how I feel in those moments feels worse. A person who trusts me, loves me and looks to me for protection. Jack has little control over his behavior just short of 3 years old. I have total and complete control over mine at 37. My reaction is mine alone. My anger is my own. It’s not a result of Jack’s behavior. It’s a result of my own thinking and choices. It’s a result of my life experiences that I hold the power to change going forward.
It’s really easy to read about gentle parenting. It’s easy to recite the philosophy. It’s a lot of fun to talk about the awesome things about gentle parenting when things are going well. When things get tough and you’re backed into an emotional corner, though, it’s a whole different game. Then it doesn’t matter how much someone has read or how long they have been a parent or how many kids they have. Then it’s just you, your emotions and your past experiences that shape your habitual reactions. The only person to look to is you. And even in these terribly lonely times I remember I am not alone. That there are Moms are out there going through this wondering if they are the only ones. I’ve met too many readers who have burst into tears upon meeting me, not because they met me, but because they relate to the words that I write and have felt alone for so long. We are not alone. We lose our shit, we hold onto our babies a little tighter, we say we are sorry and we try again. And again. And every again until the day we die.
Abby Theuring, MSW