No, You Are Not Alone

IMG_3876As parents and educators, we can seem to have it all together.

We are embarrassed that we’ve lost it with our kids over something as insignificant as spilled milk, and so we hide our messy stories from each other.  We are fearful to let anyone in on the emotional chaos we feel.  We have bought into the lie that vulnerability equals weakness, and weakness equals disaster.

We believe we are raising our children alone.

But we are not alone. 

For every story of a morning gone awry that I have shared at conferences or with friends, I hear dozens of, “That’s bad, but listen to what happened to me the other day!”  We all have stories to share, and the more we tell those stories, the more we learn that others have been here, too.  There is tremendous power in telling our stories, because we find healing and empathy.  We learn that others are walking with us right now, and can help us through their non-judgmental companionship.

On that note, let me tell you one of my stories.

My daughter had begged for waffles too many mornings in a row, and I was on the hook for Monday morning.  The problem was a trio of mid-morning doctor’s appointments, which meant getting three children under age 6 ready to leave for physicals (with all the proper paperwork in tow) by 9:15.  Plus, since we live quite a distance from any shopping/banking/errands-type-outings, I had a long list of errands for the day.

That’s three kids, in and out of the car 12 times, for a day of JOY-ZAPPING BOREDOM!

IMG_3299I did manage to make waffles, and they were delicious.  But there was a tradeoff, and at 9:10, I started rushing around the house like a be-headed chicken, hurrying the still-eating children: “You can eat a snack later.  Make sure to put socks on.  Sweetie, can you run upstairs to get socks for your brother?  Go to the car.  Help your brother get buckled.  Wash the syrup off your hands!  We’re going to be late!  Put your shoes on in the car!  Let’s go!!”

I arrived at the doctor to discover my middle child wearing short sleeves in 40 degree weather.  My youngest was shoeless.  And my oldest proudly sporting a very mismatched outfit and wild hair.  The group of us appeared at the check-in counter, breathless, and looking like a disheveled mess.

I filled out forms with all three kids – bouncing – asking, Where are the books, mom?  Read this, mom?  Will I get a shot, mom?  I don’t want a shot, mom! 

The appointment was a circus.  The doctor and I practically yelled at each other over the volume of the kids.  I was embarrassed and flustered.  I even tried to bribe them with ice cream after we left if they would sit down and read quietly!  It didn’t work.

One of the three needed shots, which we weren’t expecting.  She is the most deeply feeling of the three, and so the whole northern half of the state of California heard how much she DID NOT WANT TO GET A SHOT!  She hobbled for the rest of the day.  And while I’m sure she was in pain, I was less empathetic than I should have been, because I was tired and weary of dragging what felt like three caged cats with me around all day long!

The day never got better.  I dragged into the house at 5:30 – waffle maker still out with batter stuck to the counter, syrup pooled on the table, and half-eaten waffles, soggy and stale from a lonely day in the kitchen.

All in all, the day was a disaster.  I did run my errands, which were important.  Why am I sharing this story?  Because it’s important.  We need to know that we are not alone.  I yelled.  I bribed.  I used methods of parenting that are not in my parenting manifesto.  So I apologized to my kids, and we read stories.

I can give myself space for days like this, and I am so much gentler with myself when I know that I am not alone.

Parents and educators, you need to know:

1.  You are not alone. 

2.  When you feel that you are alone, find another parent or educator and tell them your story.

3.  Stories heal.  Hugs heal.  Empathy heals.  And these are only possible when we begin to let others in on our own insecurities and weaknesses. 

Be well.

Categories: Caregivers, Community Support, Tough Behaviors, Wisdom | Tags: , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “No, You Are Not Alone

  1. Trish

    Hi Emily, just a quick question… How did you navigate the anti shots challenge? My son had his first vaccination at the beginning if the year and he didn’t want it but still got it and limped for the day. He is super sensitive as well and very strong willed. Bribery, yes, does not work on him. So for the second vaccination he said it wasn’t going to happen, we gave him lots of time to understand it and process it and told him it was not a choice. On the day he went voluntarily but when the needle came out he refused, screamed the building down and would not sit still so did not get a shot! I had to admire his ability to protest but we really want him to get these vaccinations… Interested in your experience with a super sensitive child. Ta!

    • Here is my two cents. Children who are super sensitive need to be affirmed that they are capable of doing tough things, and they need for us to help draw limits for them so they aren’t overpowered and scared by their own strength. When it comes to doctors, carseats, and other non-negotiables, I try pretty much exactly what you’re describing, with a couple of minor changes. First, I usually don’t give too much advance warning. If I tell my daughter the day before a doctor’s appointment that we are going to go, she worries and panics about it for much longer than necessary. Yesterday, in fact, our kids had to get a TB test (following our around-the-world travels and likely exposure). My husband took the kids. When they went to the doctor, he explained, “We’re going to the doctor. We need to get you a test because of our trip. I’m not sure what it will be like, but as soon as I know, I will tell you.” Once they got there and the nurse was in the room, he asked her, “Can you tell me what the TB test is like? Is it a scratch test? A shot?” She said, “It will be a shot, but the needle is very tiny and you might not even feel it.” My husband said, “Okay, kids, it sounds like you do have to have a shot. I will hold your hand and it will be over quick.” He then started with the oldest (because she is the least reactive when it comes to shots). When it was the middle child’s turn, she was crying hard. He held her on his lap, and held her arm steady. Same process for the youngest. I don’t know how old your son is, but I would try giving him less advance notice (still tell him its coming, but don’t let him fret about it for 24 hours). Also, you will probably need to hold him firmly, which can be unpleasant for the parent, but he will not be able to hold himself still enough (until he’s older) and he needs you to provide a strong and firm presence to reassure him when he’s spinning out of control. I hope this helps!!

  2. Thank you so much. I though something was wrong with me for almost 2 years because of great parenting stories and lovely pictures i saw of others having fun – while i was there, counting the hours and wondering what to do with my child at home (after a light pp depression). I was thinking, how do other parents manage???? well, those stories help because in fact, they manage but not all the time – like i manage, but not all the time. we yell, we bribe, we’re angry and frustrated… sometimes, but not all the time – and that’s why it’s beautiful, because the everyday life bring both happy and frustrated moments.
    Thank you very much

  3. Becky

    What a great read! With a 3 year old (who wants to do EVERYTHING herself), an 11 month old, and a husband who leaves for work at 4 am, I dread mornings. Especially when I have a work meeting I MUST get to on time. The other morning when my 3 year old locked me out of the house (yep, my keys were inside), I not only bribed her with fruit snacks to let me back in (after she had repeatedly yelled through the door that she just couldn’t unlock it), I then yelled at her once she opened up and told her I lied to her about the fruit snacks. I dropped them off at the sitter and just sat in the car and cried. Felt so horrible for yelling, bribing and then lying, considering I really was just grateful she and her sister were okay.

    I know we all go through it, but it’s just so nice to hear it now and again.

    • Wow – that is a rough morning. Thank you for sharing. You’re right…hearing other people’s stories helps. I also think the process of writing or telling your story builds perspective that helps to process the experience. Thank you! <3 Emily

  4. Rhonda Miller

    You rock Emily! Your realness and honesty are REFRESHING in this driven world where people tend to share only their best moments. Thank you! You and your “three caged cats” are missed by many in Iowa!

    • Oh, we miss you so much! Yes — we would all benefit from so much more honesty. I wonder what life was like when people lived more communally. There wasn’t as much hiding, I suppose. We miss you all!!! Hugs, Emily

  5. Noemia Plank

    Thank you so much for this post! Yesterday was a challenging morning. Amazing how hard it can be to get a toddler to brush their teeth! I just wanted to cry… And I did, a little bit. It was nice not to be alone and have someone tell me that it wasn’t a big deal not to have your teeth thoroughly brushed for ONE day! Thank you for connecting all of us in the circus of child care!

  6. Kim

    Thank you for this. As one provider to another (former) childcare provider, I always wonder how some providers do it – juggling the awesome care they provide to their daycare kids, their own kids and still have time to write awesome blogs and provide excellent trainings! I always feel like I can’t keep up and my own kids are teenagers. It’s good to hear that you’re real and life really does happen to all of us!

  7. Miquela

    What a timely post for me to read. Just today, I was thinking of the power of stories and sharing and how much more loving I feel towards myself when I realize that I’m not alone with my losses of temper and my hurting, hungering desire to be a better person and mother.

    Thank you.

  8. Mercedes

    Thank you for this. It is exactly what I needed to hear today. I feel so disconnected sometimes, from my daughter and from the parent I really want to be. Exhaustion and impatience gets the better of me much more than I’d like these days. Your words have been like a hug. Thank you again.

  9. Vanessa

    Thank you for your story, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I relate! I have a 4 year old boy, and 2.5 year old girl and it’s a challenge every time we leave the house and have to be somewhere at a certain time. Anytime I feel I’m in a time crunch, whether making supper or running late, it is one of my most challenging moments. I love your blog, thanks Emily!

  10. Hillary

    I miss you! I needed this today, thank you!

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