As a family therapist, you’ve seen our family through thick and thin. You’ve helped us become more patient, kind parents. You’ve given us strategies to minimize temper tantrums, deal with anxiety, and teach our kids to regulate their own reactions so not everything that doesn’t go their way has to become a colossal nightmare. We often quote you and reference tips and tools you’ve given us that have fundamentally changed the day-to-day life of our family.
This year, we brought one of our kids back to you to deal with his overriding anxiety. Elementary school seems like nothing to us adults, but to kids growing expectations and newfound social situations can be scary. Our son started to tailspin and his anxiety reached a fever pitch. We wanted to help him deal because expectations only grow as people age, and we wanted strategies as parents to cope with his anxiety; it triggered anxiety in us, which made us less patient, even short tempered, and exhausted.
So I started coming to you even without my son, and you gave me succinct tips to help him. His anxiety lessened and so did mine. But the truth is, I made a vow to be patient no matter what tantrum’y wrenches my kids threw my way. I made a vow to do better by my kids, even when their own personal sh*t challenged mine. And I made a commitment not to use, “Stop it!” or “Get it together!” as a parenting strategy. If my kid could stop or get it together, he would have done so.
All along the way I noticed my husband had a harder time keeping it together when it came to the kid’s more challenging moments. He’d be patient up to a point and then he’d snap. So, at my suggestion, he booked an appointment for himself with you.
After going, he asked if I wanted to know what you two had covered in your session. Of course I did, but I didn’t want to appear too eager. “Sure,” I said. “But only if you’re comfortable sharing.”
He smiled for a moment and then said, “She said I should do what you’re doing. She said you don’t have the same issues and I should just do what you do. She said you’re a good mom and I should follow your lead.”
I stood there stunned, wondering how you can tell what kind of parent I am, but also impressed my husband would repeat your words. But the truth is, you’re right. I don’t have the same issues with our kids as my husband and he should follow my lead.
I say this, not because I’m a perfect parent, but because every day I dedicate myself to doing right by my children. I challenge myself not to raise my voice, criticize them, or will them to act differently than they currently are. I read books, talk to friends, consult experts, and learn from other parents who seem to have things under control. I approach parenting like it’s my job and I try to be as thorough a parent as I am an employee. It doesn’t make me a perfect parent, but it does mean I’m always trying to grow and be the best at it that I can be.
I tell you this because I am not unique. I know very few moms who aren’t giving it their all, learning, reading, challenging themselves while they are in the trenches receiving their children’s complaints, phases, and bad moods. My husband is a dedicated, involved, and engaged partner, but he doesn’t approach parenting like he does his profession. He wings it, is often unprepared, occasionally uninformed, in ways he’d never be at work.
And so while I appreciate that you’ve always been an advocate for my children, I’m grateful that you’re a strong advocate for me. Because there is relentless self-reflection required to be a good parent and no one notices it, but us. Well, no one but you. Thanks for noticing. And thanks for passing it on.