This is not a light, self-deprecating, jokey post – I really lost it with my five year old today, and I’m feeling bad about it. I shouted at her, marched her up the stairs, and told her that she wasn’t going to the party that she was invited to this afternoon.
Of course within minutes, or maybe it was seconds, I felt absolutely dreadful, and a few moments later there were tears and reconciliation and hugs (although my ability to kiss and make up always seems to take a further few minutes after I’ve started to feel bad, I’m not sure why).
I apologised to my daughter for shouting at her, and we hugged a lot. She said a tearful sorry to me for her behaviour, and seemed to forget all about the whole episode very shortly after (“mum, can I have a plait in my hair? and Rice Krispies for breakfast? where are my shoes?”).
It stayed with me all day though, and I worried that even though she seemed to have forgotten all about it, she might be permanently psychologically damaged. OK, I know she won’t, but there was a lot of GUILT going on today.
So I’m writing this as a confessional, perhaps seeking absolution from the universe.
And also, I’m writing it for anyone else who worries about shouting occasionally at their children, and on reading this might feel “I’m human, other people do this too, it doesn’t excuse it, but I’m going to stop putting my energy into agonising over it and focus on doing better next time instead”
The internet can make parents feel that everyone else is doing a better job than they are – Facebook is full of pictures of beautiful, smiling, happy children, often on outdoorsy adventures or winning medals or blowing out candles on homemade birthday cakes (guilty – I post only my cutest pictures on Facebook). And Twitter has funny, smart, incisive oneliners from the offspring of tweeting-parents (Yes I do this too).
It can give the impression that everyone is living a wonderfully child-centred life with no stresses or strains, no fights, no tears, no shouting.
I can see why we represent ourselves this way, and let’s face it, nobody want to see pictures of crying children on Facebook, but it can leave us feeling that if we’re less than perfect parents, we’re alone. And I don’t think that’s healthy for any of us, nor does it help us work on our ability to parent in a better way.
I am part of a lovely online parenting group, which focuses on peer-support for gentle-parenting. Members post looking for help with particular parenting problems, always with a focus on finding gentle, child-centred approaches to encouraging children without ever belittling them or making them feel less secure.
There was a recent post in this lovely group with a link to the Orange Rhino – a blog with a project to go 365 days without shouting at the kids – details are here
Members began taking up the challenge and posting their successes and failures. I found it eye-opening and cathartic to read that so many of my fellow-members were, like me, occasional shouters. Until that point, I had been in awe of these people who constantly sought gentle solutions to every discipline problem – I admired them, I wished to emulate them, but in a slightly “I’ll never reach this high bar” kind of way.
Which is sort of defeatist at the outset.
So to read that I was not the only parent who was failing from time to time was strangely uplifting. It gave me new motivation, new hope that I could work on being better, that I wasn’t so different from everyone else after all.
And it worked – until today at least. But I’ll start again tomorrow.
Two days after I wrote this, the following conversation took place, while we were getting ready to go out:
Clara (5 year old star of above drama): Mum, when are we going?
Me: Soon pet, I’m just cleaning the kitchen (said in genuinely gentle calm voice)
C: Mum why aren’t you speaking in a cross voice?
Me: why would I speak in a cross voice?
C: Because you always used to when we were getting ready to go out, and I miss it, you don’t sound like yourself.
Me: I was cross two days ago remember?
C: That’s what I mean, in the olden days you were cross. Mum you know I don’t like change.