I’ve taught my kids many things, but they’ve taught me much more. I guess maybe that’s why they chose me. They could see I had a lot to learn.
The decision to have kids was huge for me. I was scared. I wasn’t sure.
But as it turns out, they’ve been my most amazing teachers. Also, the most relentless.
With a guru, or a teacher or a mentor, you seek them. You make an appointment. Nice and easy.
Kids seek you. Like a missile. At any time day or night.
But you cope. You try to stay out of the line of fire, and you try and teach THEM something along the way.
Some of what I’ve taught my kids I’m sure has been amazing, life-altering wisdom.
And some, not so much.
When my daughter was around two she couldn’t get through the baby gate in the kitchen. “Oh for fuck’s sake”, she said. THIS was her first sentence. The one that came after she’d learned to say Mama and Dada.
I joked about it in that whispering to other women off to the side way that we do. But mostly I was horrified. I wrote it out as *$%@ in her baby book because I couldn’t bring myself to really face facts. Did I really teach her that?
Yes. I probably did. In her earliest formative years, I was frequently annoyed or frustrated or angry. Most of the time, actually. That one little phrase provided one little release for me.
I was struggling with postnatal depression but I didn’t know it, and even if I had, I wouldn’t have wanted to admit it.
It is so hard to admit that we are struggling because we still have the idea that things are “supposed” to look a certain way.
For much of her first year, I was wrecked. She was a reflux baby and I never got much more than 4 hours of sleep in a row. And that was a really, really good stretch.
Just like the experts said, I put her in the cot in a dark room so she wasn’t relying on motion to get to sleep. That didn’t work.
Just like the experts said, I breastfed her, even though it wasn’t working and I knew it wasn’t working.
Just like the experts said, I let her roll around on the floor naked even though it meant one more job for me cleaning up pee from the carpet.
The experts couldn’t give me the advice I needed because they had precisely no idea what I was actually going through.
When we rely on the opinions of others too heavily we start to tune ourselves out. We stop listening to our own inner wisdom.
My inner wisdom said to get some rest. To make things easier. To stop pushing.
But I didn’t know how to do that. I’d listened to others for so long, I’d forgotten how to listen to myself.
It happens. To many of us.
So I reverted to the happy, shiny face about the way I wanted things to be, and about the way I wanted things to appear to other people. I thought that might fix it.
Deep down, I thought motherhood was hard, hard, hard. And lonely. And hard.
I couldn’t admit it though. Not even to myself.
Instead, I wondered why I couldn’t do it. “What’s wrong with you? Surely you can take care of a tiny human. BILLIONS of women do it every single day. You’ve always been an overachiever. Why is this so hard for you?”
Beating ourselves down is never a good strategy for pulling ourselves up.
We have to remember to back ourselves.
We have to stop trying to do everything perfectly.
We have to stop relying on other people’s opinions.
And that is extremely easy in theory, especially to a perfectionist. “Just stop trying to be perfect? Stop relying on the opinions of others? No problem. I’ll put my Key Performance Indicators in place now.”
In practice, you cannot just wake up one day and say, “Okay world, today I will STOP being a perfectionist. I’m NEVER going to do that again.”
It IS a practice.
Little by little. Moment by moment. Giving yourself a break by giving yourself a break.
You just have to practice NOT being perfect as many times a day as you can manage. Without being perfectionist about it.
My children taught me that. In their infinite wisdom, they always knew that they have nothing to prove and everything to gain by accepting themselves and their circumstances as they are.
They’ve also taught me that there are endless opportunities to access and experience more joy. That there are more opportunities to practice unconditional love and patience than I ever thought possible. That as we get older we must remind ourselves to live in the moment, and that maybe one day (if we keep practicing) we’ll get back to a place where that is a natural part of being.
Mostly, they taught me that NOT being perfect is just as important as trying to BE perfect.
We do the best we can in every moment, and that’s all we can do.
We only have to remember that. And not perfectly.