My kids’ school has this excellent program called “Social Skills.” It teaches them very useful concepts like not interrupting, “friendly talk,” “brave talk,” and other ways of learning how to be in the world, how to deal with their feelings in a healthy way.
I love this program because it presents these concepts to kids in an environment in which they are already learning (as opposed to at home, where they just want to play or destroy), and it helps me know how to teach them these things, because, honestly, I don’t always know where to start with stuff like this.
This program also stresses me out, though, because my kids bring home these sheets that I need to fill out to show that they are practicing their newly acquired skill. In theory, I think it’s a great idea. I can reinforce what they learned at school, catch them doing something right, and then I think they get a prize when they return the sheet to school.
The problem is, even when I tape the sheet to the wall, I DO NOT DO IT. I don’t color in the smiley faces. I don’t write examples. I don’t even remember to catch them in the act of doing it.
This is because I find it very overwhelming. And then, because this program is a Good Thing that I “should” be doing, I feel like a lousy parent for not being better at it, which then just makes me feel more overwhelmed and more down on myself and the fun cycle continues!
I was berating myself about this parental failing when I remembered something that happened in carpool the other afternoon.
The way our carpool pick-up works is that parents pull up at the back of the school in two lines, the carpool administrators call out which children should come out, and then the kids walk to the car. After the kids get in the car, the drivers pull forward to exit the parking lot.
Okay, it can be much more stressful than that, but that’s the gist of it.
So the other day, all three of my school-aged children came out, arm-in-arm, in a cute little group. They were walking carefully since it was icy, and it made me so happy to see how they were all cooperating.
As I got out of the car, I praised them, telling them that I was so proud of how safely they were walking together.
The mother ahead of me in line made a self-conscious comment about how while I was praising my kids as they were coming out of the building, she was barking at them to “get in the car!”
I responded with a comment about how I was only being so nice to my kids to make everyone else feel bad (because G-d forbid someone think I’m being a nice supportive mother, apparently).
After that interaction, I reflected on while we can all beat ourselves up for the things we aren’t doing, it is much harder to acknowledge and accept the things we are great at. The things we are totally rocking as parents.
And we are all rocking things.
These things we rock should be written down somewhere, taped up on the inside of a kitchen cabinet or on the side of your fridge, or in the drawer or your nightstand. Wherever you can access it.
Write down five things you’ve done that make you feel good about your parenting. Did you do it? I’ll wait.
Now, the next time you find yourself feeling down about something you are struggling with as a parent (because you are a human), stop. Go to the list. Look at it. Believe it.
Know that there are things as a parent that you are great at, and things that you could improve. Know that people around you have a different skill set, different levels of experience, and do not, under any circumstances, compare yourself to them. You can look at them and say, hey, maybe that’s something I could work on, but that’s it. No feeling down on yourself about not being there yet.
My sweet spot as a parent usually comes when I am able to see what I’m doing right, see where I can improve, and feel good about both of those things. I hope that we can all get there, at least sometimes, and, when we can’t, know that that’s okay, too.