Gentle parents are very adept at seeing things from a child’s eye view. OK, so not all the time, when it is over something seemingly so irrational as now wanting the green cup when they have just spent the last 30 minutes screaming for the red one. But on the whole, it makes good sense to try and get down to their level and empathise with how it must be to be someone with big feelings inside a tiny body.
We know this. Yet somehow we fail to apply the same logic to ourselves.
We tend to forget that big people have a hard time too.
We all know the quote:
"Your child is not giving you are hard time. They are having a hard time."
Well, I’d like you repeat after me:
"I am not giving anyone a hard time. I am having a hard time.”
Coping with the ever-present threat of Covid and the challenges of lockdown life has made for a uniquely hard time for all sorts of reasons.
We’ve been stuck in fight-fight-freeze mode for the best part of a year. Even simple decisions like whether to go to the supermarket have become fraught with anxiety. We are simply not designed to live that way.
We have been cut off from many of our usual coping mechanisms. Unable to meet up with friends, organise play dates, have a hug with family members, go to the shops, have a holiday, even sit briefly in a cafe and watch the world go by. It is pants. Which is a rather English expression for ‘it sucks’.
On top of this, we may well have health concerns, money worries, and relationships under enormous strain. All of which are primary stressors at the best of times.
I’m not saying all this to get you down. I’m saying all this to just act as a reminder of how much you’ve been carrying this past 12 months.
If this pandemic was shrunk down to 24 hours, we are like overgrown kids at the end of a very long, over stimulating, and stressful day.
What we need is someone to make us a warm drink, wrap us up in a large fluffy blanket, kiss us better, and make the bad stuff go away.
And yet, I see a lot of parents (and mothers in particular) beating themselves up for not handling things very well.
So the reframe that I’d like you to keep coming back to is to regard yourself with absolutely the same level of tenderness and care that you would a small overwhelmed child.
When our kids have a meltdown, we realise that it’s often due to everything that’s been going on in the day.
We reduce the demands on them. We offer comfort.
When we have a meltdown, we think it is because we are bad parents. We increase the pressure. We criticise ourselves for not doing better.
Now is not the time to be trying to improve yourself, or hoping to live up to already unrealistic standards.
Focus instead on lowering your expectations (of everything, but mainly of yourself) and upping the amount of comfort you can possibly extract out of your day.
Keep things simple.
Nurture your inner toddler.
And you will be surprised at just how resilient she is.