Super Mom vs. Wonder Woman
I have learned a TON in parenting my child that comes from hard places. I have learned perhaps more than I ever hoped to know. But the most important thing that he is still teaching me is to stop trying to be Super Mom. This is likely going to ruffle some feathers and I truly don't mean to point fingers. I am still on my own journey so I resemble my own remarks.
Super Mom. We have all seen them. They are the ones who bring juice boxes to the park and baggies of nutritious nuts to eat. They are the ones who are completely and totally prepared for anything that comes their way. They are never caught without tissues or bandages and they carry the little single serve packages of antibiotic ointment. They are the mom's who can shop quietly and carefully through Target with the children sitting perfectly in the cart playing on the IPad reciting Shakespeare. She is the Mom who has a routine that everyone follows and she has it dialed into her schedule perfectly. A Super Mom is a woman who is trying to control everything in the lives of her children. Nothing is left to the spur of the moment. It is a parent who controls and hangs onto that routine for the life of her. Is being in control a bad thing? No! Is having a routine bad? No! But just like M&Ms, I think there is such thing as too much of a good thing!
A Super Mom of a child who has experienced trauma or has attachment issues would be the one that can whip out a book at any given time to help another mom struggling. She would be the one to tell you about 15 different coping mechanisms and have a giant list of "tools" that she can call upon at any time day or night to help get her child through the fact that she doesn't want brussels sprouts. She is the one who can read too much into every little thing her child does, says or writes. She can decifer dreams and journal entries and tell you what psychosis the child is exhibiting. She is an amazing talker and a wonderful perveyor of knowledge.
I and NOT, by any stretch, sayingthat knowledge and tools are a bad thing. I am saying that, I think sometimes that we, as parents of hurt children, tend to focus TOO MUCH on their therapies, their tools, their healing and simply forget to be a parent. We spend too much time controlling the situation and advocating to just sit back and enjoy life and make memories. Sometimes we need to sit back, relax and enjoy our children (even if they make that difficult!)
My journey in the last year has brought me to a place of acceptance. That acceptance has allowed me to sit back and love him for who he is, hurt or not, and allow me to just be his mom, not his therapist. My focus has shifted from always trying to "fix" him to love him where he is. I still have tools that help us through the day. I still talk through things differently than I would other kids. I still work on things that need worked on. The difference is that my major focus is not on the TRAUMA and the HEALING, it is on the FAMILY. The child is first and foremost, not the HEALING that I hope to help him accomplish.
This shift in my focus has brought us closer as an entire family unit. We have begun to make more memories that are not speckeled with therapies. We can go on with our lives. I can shoot him an "evil eye" when he is acting up in public and not go into a long discussion about why he did something and how he can imporve on it later. I don't think about how I am missing an opportunity to work through something. I simply live my life. I simply enjoy what it is and deal with it in an appropriate manner later. Not everything has to be discussed til it is dead. For the most part, he knows when he has chosen something that is wrong. He simply lacked the impulse or the desire to make a positive choice and that is something that will likely not change just by a conversation.
Managing behavior is streamlined for me. We have minor phrases that work to remind my kids that they need to make a better decisons. I can simply say "Let It Go" and be done with it. My kids know that they need to drop it an move on. I think it is so important in eliminating the shame and the guilt that happens when we lecture. My journey over the last year has taught me how important and remarkable it is to Let It Go and not hold onto all the ugliness. When we Let It Go, we elimnate the anger, the frustration and the hatred that can sour our mood, attitude and our outlook. We don't allow it to get ahold of us. We are the winners. We don't ignore the past, we learn from it and move on. It doesn't pervade every part of us. It doesn't get a foot hold in our mind or heart. Letting something go is the first step in moving forward. Moving forward is a very important part of healing. By not dwelling on the past, we can accept the ugliness and move forward into a new space. I teach my kids that tomorrow is a new day with a clean slate. That in itself is a gift.
The other phrase we use often as a reminder, is "Good Character". That is a reminder that the choices they are making is not something that builds a good character. We talk often at bedtime, or at the dinner table about what a person with good character "looks" like. We talk about how we strive to live a life that others will see us as having a good character. If I say "good character" while on an outing, or even in the backyard, it is a signal to one of my kids that they are choosing something that is disrectful, dishonest, or just plain not nice. It is their choice to make an adjustment to be a person of character.
Consequences versus punishment. (which is a whole blog post in itself). Natural consequences are the best learning tool. "Hmmm, the nighbor doesn't want to play with you? Well, yesterday you treated him badly andrefused to play the game he wanted to play." Or, "Wow, your sister won't play checkers? I seem to remember you getting angry and clearing the board. That probably isn't a fun way for her to play." Of course those always offer learning opportunities and times to rectify the situation. "Perhaps, if you told her that you realize that was a bad decision and this time you will try to control your anger, she will give you another chance." Or, "I bet if you choose to play his game this time, maybe he will play yours next. Working together is always a good choice." Or it could be something that cannot be fixed, "Yep, the DVD player is broken, it seems someone stuck something in there. Sorry, I can't buy a new one right now. I guess you will have to pick something else to do." And those times, while frustrating, tend to offer many learning experiences and hopefully will curtail that destructive behavior in the future. I don't have to own my child's mistakes. If my child (or others around him) is not in immediate danger, it is ok to let them fail and deal with the consequences of their action. That will make them better grown-ups and perhaps learn from their own mistakes.
This year has been one of huge learning oppotunities for me as a mother. I have grown into a different person than I used to be. I have learned that it is ok to not always be so gosh darned therapeutic and just be a parent. It is ok to clear the slate and hug my child 3 minutes after a massive rage. I used to get so bent out of shape when he would act like nothing happned right after he had to be restrained or raged. It was infuriating! Now, I envy that ability to move forward and treat it like water under the bridge. For me THAT is freedom. He knows that he did it, I know he did it, we both know it is unacceptable, his traumatized brain made an impulsive and bad decision to "act the fool". It's over, move on to making memories. Move on to living the life we have been given. There is a time and a place for everything. I perfer to make the time for anger, hatred, frustration a much smaller place than happiness and freedom. That is a place of WONDER. That is a life of character.
I don't want to be a Super Mom, I want to be a Wonder Woman.
It is a journey.
It is a metamorphosis.
I will never stop learning how to make myself, my family and my world better.
- Sheri (who blogs at Ain't That Sherific)