Before I had kids I used to think about what I would be like as a parent. Of course I would be a good parent because I was a good and loving person and I thought “who doesn’t love their kids, right?” Besides, by the time I finished college I had figured out everything my parents had done wrong and how to things better. I even took some classes on child development so I was pretty sure I would be an awesome parent with very well-behaved children.
Then we had our first child, our son. The pregnancy had gone smoothly but nothing about the delivery or the first few months of his life went as planned. It was a much more stressful situation than either me or my wife had anticipated and we struggled to adjust to our new normal.
However, as time went on we got settled into some routines that helped us feel normal. We learned to really enjoy our son as we watched him grow. And he was a good kid.
We actually came to believe the idea of the “terrible twos” was a myth…our son was extremely well-behaved when he was two and grew into a sweet, well-mannered 3 year old.
And then he turned 4.
It was almost like someone flipped a switch in his brain that caused utter chaos to ensue.
Temper tantrums, screaming, throwing toys, defiance, back-talk, and all kinds of rebellion have suddenly become our new normal. Spanking just adds fuel to his fire and time-outs often do the same.
He has an uncanny ability to get me from happy to completely ticked off in a matter of seconds and knows exactly which buttons to push. My sweet little boy whom I love so dearly can bring out an anger in me that I didn’t know existed.
My calm, rational mind gets clouded and overcome by frustration and I lose my cool. I often put him in his room for time out so both of us can get a chance to calm down.
My incredible wife is a stay-at-home mom for him and our almost-two-year-old daughter and I honestly don’t know how she does it. Some days are good but many days he pushes her beyond her limits.
By the end of most days, my kids wear down my wife into a person I barely recognize and I hate them for it. Now I know hate is a strong word to use when talking about my kids, but let me clarify. I don’t hate my kids, I hate the results of their behavior. This is an important distinction to make but nonetheless, I often have strong negative feelings toward my kids. This usually results in a cycle of guilt and shame and feelings of inadequacy as a parent and as a person. Parents, the struggle is real.
Now I know you older parents and grandparents are probably preparing your “it’s just a phase” and “they won’t be young forever” speeches, but those are honestly worthless to me right now. Seeing parents of young kids struggling to make it through the day and throwing out a “positive” catchphrase is not helpful. As a matter of fact it’s annoying.
It’s like seeing someone digging a ditch that’s ten feet deep and 5 miles long using nothing but a shovel with a broken handle and you come along and say, “enjoy this time in the ditch while you can because it will be over before you know it.” I’ve got news for you: most parents don’t appreciate these little whitewashed sayings and half-hearted smiles; either pick up a shovel or keep walking.
The truth is, parenting is hard.
Some children offer more challenges than others, but we all have our own junk to deal with and we handle things differently.
Ultimately, parenting is a gift and a blessing; but sometimes the greatest blessings are the ones that stretch us and challenge us and frustrate us to no end. They push us to our emotional and relational limits, then just a bit farther. They force us to adapt to change and bring out the core of who we really are, for better and for worse. In the end, we will come out of this turbulent time better people and with more love in our hearts than we ever thought possible.
We go into battle ill-equipped, uninformed, and totally overwhelmed, but we leave the battlefield as heroes full of strength and bravery and honor, having overcome our enemies.
So what I’m saying is there is hope. I won’t downplay or sugar-coat it: your life as a parent probably sucks in a lot of ways right now, but it won’t last forever. It will feel like forever-maybe even longer-but it will have an end. You just have to hang in there and don’t give up. I promise you will be better on the other side-if you survive that is. 🙂
Here are 3 things to help you survive the battleground of Parenthood:
1. Clarify your goals as a parent
Think about what kind of parent you want to be and why, how you want your kids to live when they’re grown and define some practical ways to move toward those goals. Align your schedule with your highest priorities as a parent.
2. Connect with other parents
Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone is enough to get you through the tough days and dramatically improve your attitude. You shouldn’t expect other people to solve your kid’s issues, but comparing notes and asking for honest input from others who are in the same boat or just reaching the other shore is always a good idea.
3. Take a stinking break!
Just because they’re you’re kids doesn’t mean you should never get time away from them. Especially if you’re married, getting some time on a frequent basis without the constant interruptions and crises of children is crucial to a healthy marriage. This doesn’t always have to be an entire weekend getaway; just a few hours a week can do wonders for your emotional health.
Why is parenting so hard for you right now? Let me know in the comments, on Facebook, or send me an email. I’d love to hear I’m not alone.