You know how people say things like, “Cherish these times when you’re kids are young, they go so fast” and “There’ll come a time you’ll wish your kids wanted you all the time”? In the minutia of the moment, you want to spit in their eye. Those years of daily scrambling in the trenches of parenting crawl at a snail’s pace. A day can’t get over fast enough. But being on the other side, I know what those well-wishers mean, because I now am one.
Especially now with the school year beginning, I know how easy it is to get stuck in the everyday details and catastrophize them into major fears. As hard as I know it is, I encourage you not to sweat the small stuff.
Don’t freak out if your child doesn’t get his homework handed in for the fourth time in a row, or gets an F in math, or gets sent to the principal’s office, or gets in a fight on the playground, or cries that he hates school and doesn’t want to go. I don’t mean to ignore these signs of needing help, but assumptions that upend you and drop you into some futuristic image of never being able to hold down a job don’t help.
Keep your eye on the bigger picture.
Don’t blow up when your child screams that she hates you, when she punches her little brother 20 times a day, when she resists and refuses to do what you say, when she demands your attention 24/7.
Don’t worry for his mental sanity when fears and obsessions keep your child from getting to sleep, from going on a school trip or a sleep-over, from going outside when thunder is looming.
Keep your eye on the bigger picture. Remember things you went through, talk to other adults about experiences they had as kids, and most of all, have faith that your child can get through it—and he will get through it much better if you can stay calm and confident.
As great as it is to have so much parenting advice at your fingertips, it is detrimental when you don’t know who or what to listen to and you get overwhelmed thinking about what you “should” be doing, fearing that you’re not.
While I don’t want you to be satisfied with being only a “good enough” parent, it’s far better than being a freaked out parent. Your children are amazingly resilient and need more grit getting through the daily events of their lives than we currently give them room for. The reason is—our fear.
Fear that they will never learn.
Fear that if you don’t stop them now, it’ll never happen.
Fear that they will fail.
Fear that they will turn out all wrong.
Fear that you are messing them up.
And fear is so often expressed as anger.
No matter what is tripping up your child, even has him in lock down, what he needs more than anything is connection with you—your understanding of his turmoil and pain, your listening ear, your shoulder to cry on. He does not need to be told what to do about it all the time, and he especially does not need your fear.
You are your child’s mountain. While she swirls and blows like a hurricane, sometimes a tornado, around you, she needs to count on your stability and most of all your faith that she has and will continue to have whatever it takes to get through whatever it is. I know this is a daunting job, but I promise you, your day to day parenting will become much easier when you don’t have to come up with the answers. You just need to be there as shelter in the storm.
You’re job is to curb your worry about the future and pay more attention to how you can stay in the present moment. The homework problem, while it may take over a year will not take over a lifetime. Anxiety may take several years to work through, probably not more. These struggles can serve to strengthen your child. He doesn’t do well with your fear that he will never be able to get along without you.
I spent eight plus years dealing with the storms of my daughter, four of those in worry and power struggles trying to get her to change. When I gave that up, she could deal with herself without my fears to worry about on top of her own. When I was simply there for her, she got through it all and is a remarkable young woman today.
So as ridiculous as it may sound, don’t sweat the small stuff. I know it seems herculean today, but in the long run, your child will travel a journey you cannot imagine even in your wildest dreams. Your job is to make sure he has the confidence to travel that journey, not to give him directions on where to go. When you fear and fret and try to get him to do it differently, you undermine that confidence. There will be many battles ahead that he must fight on his own. He needs to know he can do it.