“For many mothers - as well as for fathers who bear the brunt of raising a child - parenting can be emotionally, psychologically, financially, and physically draining, yet few of us ever honestly share how exacting, incredibly tough, and emotionally burdensome we find it. So invested are we in being “good” parents that we would be embarrassed to share our feelings with friends and family. Because of our fear of being judged, we tend to hide the degree to which we feel torn asunder, shredded, and psychically distorted by the demands of our children. Consequently, most of us walk the path of parenthood feeling alone, truly believing we are abnormal in our occasional longing to be who we were before we became a mother. However, were we to reach across our mantles of perfection, we would discover a kinship with other parents and realize we aren’t at all unusual for having such feelings, just human.”
This paragraph quote above is the reason you need to read this month’s book. This quote means everything to me in a world of unbearable mommy judgement. Ok, I know I said last month that the Astrology book was THE parent book to read, but the Conscious Parent by Dr Shefali Tsabary definitely needs to make the list, too! I am not going to lie to you, it’s a hard read. I could only read 10 pages at a time, which means it took me forever to get through this book. BUT it was so worth it.
“Many of us harbor the fantasy that, of all the people we have to deal with in life, at least our children will bend to our will. If they don’t, daring instead to live their own life, marching to their own beat, we feel insulted. When our more discreet methods of gaining compliance fail, we become louder and more forceful, simply unable to bear that idea that our children are challenging our will.”
This book is hard to read, because it is not pointing fingers at the child, but at yourself. It is all about how our own ego shows up in parenting. How we want our children to be a certain way, because maybe we lack something within ourselves that we don’t want for our kids. We may push them to get the best grades, because we never had the chance to go to the best colleges. We are trying to rectify our own mistakes and lives through our children. And this is a recipe for disaster. Children will mold into what we want them to be, they show up to help us deal with our own issues - until they don’t and start to rebel. Then we suddenly don’t like what they do, how they act, we punish them, and we get into a vicious cycle of being unable to deal with our children, and them rebelling more and more.
“Mistakes need to be regarded not as something to harangue and punish, but as windows for learning. Isn’t this how we want our own mistakes to be regarded? The reality is that we make lots of mistakes in adults life. We lose keys, leave the gas on, lose our way when driving, forget appointments, get into car accidents, overlook paying our bills, neglect to call friends when we said we would, misplace our phone, curse and yell ,throw tantrums, drink too much, come home too late, eat the wrong foods, or watch too much television. In other words, we do countless things we want our children, in their young state of being, not to do just because them these things are wrong! Where do we come off, so high and mighty, as to judge and admonish them for doing the very things we do, only we don’t have anyone looking over our shoulder waiting to reprimand us?”
While this books really honors the child as its own person, this doesn’t mean there is not discipline or respect for each other, society, and the world involved. However, instead of the word “discipline”, Dr. Tsabary prefers the word behavioral shaping. This means we respond to all of our children’s behaviors, not just the once we don’t like. The positive is focused on just as much if not more. I love that so much. The few bad days I have had with Baby Zand, where I continuously nag her about the things she’s doing wrong, everything just goes downhill. She does more of the things I don’t want her to do, I yell more, she does more, it’s an endless cycle where we eventually both end up in tears. It drains me so much, I just can’t do it from an energy perspective every single day.
“When we see our children for all they are yet to become , barely recognizing all they already are, we teach them they are incomplete”
I could go on and on about the nuggets of wisdom that comes from this book, I will just highlight a few for you. If any of them spark any interest in you at all, then grab this book:
"Be honest with your children how you feel in a moment." I will tell Baby Zand when I am sad, when I am exhausted, when I am angry, when I feel overwhelmed. This way she herself learns that it is ok to feel these feelings, she herself acknowledges her feelings, I will sit with her, we let the feelings wash over ourselves, and we move in with life. It is remarkable.
The reason I have enjoyed every single stage of parenting is because I have dropped any kind of expectations, such as when she can feed herself, how she shares her toys, what instrument she should play, etc. Dr. Tsabary says: “What do you have a right to expect from your children? I identify three elements: respect for themselves, for others, and for their safety. Beyond these basics, your children own the right to manifest who they want to be, even if this isn’t what you wish for them.”
“We can be grateful for all situations in life, no matter how harsh, because they come and teach us something.”
“Our children need to be allowed to say “no” to us.” This is a huge one for me. Especially with the girls, we raise them to say “yes” to everything. I want Baby Zand to say no, she doesn’t like something. I want her to set boundaries for her own comfort and safety. And if I want her to be able to do these things, I need to realize that she needs to start practicing saying “no” now already.
“When an issue isn’t a matter of life or death and yet we insist on our way of doing things, we may imagine we are teaching our children respect for rules, whereas in reality we are teaching them to be like us - rigid and unyielding.” Baby Zand has dressed herself forever. She gets to choose what colors, what outfit, what tiara. I don’t care. I choose my battles, and clothes aren’t one. I always felt like clothes were just a way for her to express herself, while other mothers looked down at me, questioning why I would let me child run around with a petticoat, a sparkly dress, stripey pants, and cowboy boots. Who cares? Dr. Tsabary puts it into perspective with two sets of rules: “Main rules: respect for parents’ authority around bedtime, homework, mealtimes, wake up time, and so on; respect for the parents’ authority when they say “no”; respect for self, including staying warm and safe; and a respectful tone and attitude towards others. Flexible rules are all the rules that make no real difference to a child’s sense of wellbeing or health.” It’s not going to kill Baby Zand walking around in a fun outfit - she might only cringe later when she looks back on those photos.
“When our children are permitted to feel their feelings, they are able to release them amazingly quickly. They come out of the pain understanding that pain is just another sensation.” I often think if we were really taught how to deal with our emotions in childhood, we would all be able to deal with feelings so much better and not hold endless grudges as adults.
“Acceptance of our children goes hand-in-hand with an acceptance of ourselves. Only to the degree that we honor ourselves will we honor our children.” Is this not so beautiful? Yes, basically having kids is like a life long self help seminar :-). Having kids is an endless journey of self love.