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!
I 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.