I am slowly accepting that we are all just little angry toddlers in adult bodies, waiting to throw our next tantrum.
I have learned since becoming a parent, that being a “good” parent is more about learning to cope with your own emotional damage (dismissed feelings, yelling, isolation and being ignored, fear of failure, competitiveness, praise addictions, etc.) than anything else. I’m still to this day learning to heal my own emotional scars, instead of letting it become a trigger. Triggers that cause me to take out my misplaced emotions on someone else.
People often say that they don’t need a parenting “style” or a plan. People will say “I don’t need anything other than my own instincts as to what is best for my own family”. This is absolutely true. However, the fact is if you really dig deep a more “gentle” style of parenting actually IS instinct, supported with science, psychology, and experience. However, this type of parenting requires that we take an INTENTIONAL approach to get in touch with those instincts. The trouble today is, there is so much “fad” parenting out there that people feel turned off by the idea of doing anything differently than how they were raised. Afterall, we all “turned out ok”. When in reality, we all didn’t turn out OK. Each and every one of us has emotional scars that impact our behavior as adults. Much of which was caused by loving, well-meaning parents who didn’t know there was a different approach, or a better way.
Earlier today, a situation at home made me realize that I have a lot more work to do on myself than anything else. If I’m going to be the best parent I can be, this is by far the first step I need to take.
It all started when my rambunctious toddler fell off the couch and bumped his head. I went to him, held him, kissed him, and let him just cry in my arms. I wanted him to know that it was OK to feel sad, to feel emotional, and that I was there to comfort him. My well-meaning and loving husband (wanting to also soothe and protect his son) comes up and asks to hold him. I hand my son to his dad. Naturally, J is reaching for me. He wants to be comforted. I can see this frustrates my husband, so I back off a bit but I don’t leave completely.
My husband starts telling my son to “shhh” and “stop crying” and to “be a big boy, big boys don’t cry”. I’m upset at these remarks. No one deserves to have their feelings dismissed. It’s OK to cry, even for “big boys”. We all deserve to be allowed to FEEL emotions, instead of being taught to dismiss them, burry them, push them away (clearly, this is my angry toddler trigger). So I try to gently say that it’s ok to he upset and to have feelings. We all feel sad and hurt. Even “big boys” have feelings. My husband (who I now realize is just like a toddler who’s feelings were not acknowledged) gets upset with me, and goes on to tell me that I’m going to turn our son into a “sissy” and that I need to stop acting like I know everything. Of course, this triggers my own insecurities (que my inner adult toddler with childhood wounds) and I get upset. There is yelling, and feelings hurt, and things said we don’t mean. ALL because of what? Very simply, a failure to acknowledge each other’s feelings. I was too worried about my son’s feelings to remember to acknowledge my husband’s.
My anger with my husband’s feelings about his son becoming a “sissy” has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with me. Those are his feelings and I failed to acknowledge them. I basically told him he was “wrong” to feel that way, and this triggered the angry toddler in him who didn’t know what to do with those dismissed emotions. Purposely or not, I dismissed him. I did this because he triggered the angry defensive toddler in me, and I lost perspective. I threw a tantrum.
You see? We are all just wounded toddlers, hoping to have our feelings accepted, understood, and acknowledged so we can learn to work through them.
Just. Like. Toddlers.
The most important thing about parenting is NOT about children, it’s about US as parents. It’s about being human, and healing old wounds. It’s about accepting our own flaws, and learning to make them better. For ourselves. So that we can model better emotional regulation for our children. It’s about learning to love people better every day, and most importantly it’s about learning to be “gentle” with ourselves first and foremost, because we are all just little toddlers with emotions we don’t know how to handle.