I feel like there are things that I am going to say in this series that can easily be misunderstood, especially if you aren’t raising an intense child.
My hope and prayer as you read this series is that you remember who I am and my commitment to wholeness. Sometimes the process to get there is pretty messy.
I am a total pushover when it comes to parenting.
I’ve tried to figure out why I became a pushover. It’s probably because I’ve had my own stuff to deal with over the years. It’s probably because I don’t appreciate processes, I like the end result. For example, I was struggling to teach Cole how to tie his shoes, so I just stopped trying and hoped someone else would teach him (which thankfully someone did). I think I’m a pushover partly because as I shared in my last post, I thought it was going to be easy and since it’s not-I give up quickly.
I’ve tried to be consistent. I’ve tried charts. So many charts. I’ve tried ignoring her. I’ve tried encouraging her. I’ve tried yelling at her. I sought advice. We read books. We sought counsel, we sought counseling.
But I just kept giving in. And not only did I keep giving in, I began to respond differently. Piper & Cole could ask the same question, I would respond 100% differently to each of them. I could calmly, lovingly respond to Cole. Piper, I would go from 0-1,000 in seconds. They would ask for a snack and I graciously give Cole a snack. Piper would ask for a snack and my response sounded something like this, “What, you want a snack, after all you have put me through this morning? No snack for you.” Okay, maybe I wouldn’t say those words out loud, but I would think them.
Like I shared in my previous blog, I became very resentful towards her. Something had to change. I was not being fair to her and certainly wasn’t being the parent that I wanted to be.
I had to let go of the expectations I had for her and our relationship. I had to grieve the child that I wanted and had expected Piper to be.
For those of you who have read my blog you know that I am passionate about grief. My passion stems from the fact that I have done it so poorly and I have paid the price. I want people to learn from my mistakes. I believe that grief is misunderstood. If people allowed themselves to grieve the way it was intended, we would all be a lot more healthy and whole. The place where I feel like grief is most misunderstood is that people associate grief with physical death only. If someone close to you dies, it is expected that you would grieve. But since Piper is alive and well, what is it that I have to grieve?
We need to expand our understanding of grief. We don’t just need to mourn the loss of physical death, we also need to mourn the loss of dreams, expectations, jobs, health, relationships, etc. In order to truly move forward we need to be able to put to rest the things that are dead, both physically and conceptually.
Let me give you a glimpse of what this has looked in the context of my relationship with Piper. Because of the reasons I shared earlier, I assumed that Piper would be a fun, energetic, spirited child. I thought that we would have fun adventures together. I’m fun, Bryan’s fun. We are fun parents. I expected us to have fun. Because of her gene pool, I didn’t expect that she would be shy or docile, and I didn’t expect that she would be defiant, explosive or disrespectful either.
I was parenting from a place of unmet expectations. Because of that, my reactions towards her became disproportionate. Like I shared, I would go from 0-1,000 in seconds over a simple question. I would get angry at her for doing things a certain way, because deep down I was just angry that parenting her turned out to be so hard. I would get absolutely devastated at fairly common behavior because I was devastated at the lack of joy and fun in our house. A lot of her behavior is/was explosive and disproportionate, but even when it wasn’t I would rise to the occasion.
I would cry myself to sleep, angry at God. I harbored bitterness, believing in my heart that she was ruining my life and cheating me of opportunities. When she was struggling with anxiety, mine would rise beyond reason. I would blame myself, thinking it was my fault that her life was going to be so hard. I thought I had hid my anxiety so well. I allowed her to take over all my energy and emotions. I would remind God how faithful I was and plead for him to change her.
All of these toxic emotions started bubbling up in my heart when she was 5. That is a lot of emotion to have towards a little, innocent 5 year old. And as much as I tried to hide my emotions, she knew. And as much as I wish it weren’t true, the state of my heart affects the state of our home. Don’t you just wish you could be crabby without it affecting everyone around you? I feel like moms have it worse, one bad moment sets the tone for the rest of the day. I digress…
I had to grieve. I had to grieve my unmet expectations. I had to properly experience loss so that I could come to accept who Piper is and who God created her to be.
As I write, it may sound like I’m on the other side of grief. I’m not. Grief is rarely linear. I would say that on some levels I have moved to a place of acceptance, but I still get disproportionately angry or devastated by her behavior. But I’ll tell you this, I recover faster now. My anger doesn’t simmer as long as it used to. I don’t cry myself to sleep as often or as long. My prayer has begun to change from “Why God?” to “God, help me see. Help me see past my frustration and disappointment and help me see who you created Piper to me/ Help me to accept her. Not just accept her, but appreciate her, enjoy her and like her.”
Does that resonate with anyone?
Like I shared in the beginning of my blog, this might be tough to hear for some people. I respect that. I’m not proud of these feelings or the process I’ve had to experience. But I also know that there are parents out there that need to hear this. There are parents who need allow themselves to grieve the expectations that they had for parenting and/or for their child. Because until we can do that, we will never be able to move past our unmet expectations and start accepting our children for who God made them to be.
If you resonate with what I’m saying and don’t know where to start, start here. When you feel like you over reacting, pause. Ask, why? Investigate the source of your anger. Is it really about the situation in front of you or is there something bigger at play? If there is something bigger, reach out-I’d love to talk. Talk to a friend. Go to a counselor. Go there. Pray. Our kids deserve better. God has designed us to be better and he has created pathway to get you there, it’s called grief.