This morning I woke up to the sound of the rain beating against the window near my bed. I could hear the cars driving by and the rain splashing up against the tires. My family and I have been dealing with a variety of illnesses for a few days, so any extra time in bed would be heaven sent. I now hear my son getting up from his bed and heading to the bathroom. I shutter a bit. I know what is coming next, what comes every morning, but today it just seems to be bothering me more. I’ve only been awake for a few minutes but I already know my capacity is going to be on the LOW end today. My ability to parent, homeschool, clean up, work and make decisions is going to be very limited and even challenging.
Cue 6 year old barreling into my bedroom with the ipad in tow, “MOM can I play on the ipad”? I have a couple of choices to make at this moment and each one is completely dependent on my capacity. I’d like to relate my choices to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I imagine myself being Goldilocks, just strolling around, not bothering a soul. When all of a sudden, a cute little cottage comes into view (parenting). I walk inside and see 3 bowls or “choices” I can make at that moment.
The first bowl is too hot- I could react fast and bark at my son, “NO you know you can’t have the ipad in the morning. You ask me every day and the answer is always the same! When are you going to learn?” This of course would blow up into a whole event itself, my daughter would then wake and we would all start the day off on the wrong foot.
The second bowl is too cold- I could calmly sit up out of bed, give my son a big hug, tell him I love him and ask how he slept last night. Then I could have a conversation with him about his BIG desire and include him in the choice. “Sounds like you really want to watch the ipad this morning. Tell me more about this since you have a lot of other things to do today.” This would take presence and energy to be intimate with “THIS” moment instead of giving him permission or not from my desire.
The third bowl is JUST right- I’ve already taken a scan of my ability for parenting today. I know I’m not feeling well and neither is my son and daughter so I could say “good for you for asking and today I’m offering 30 minutes on the ipad while your sister and I rest a little longer. Then I’ll be down so we can start our day.” Yes, I’m breaking my “rule” of no ipad in the morning, BUT I’m honoring where my children and I are TODAY.
Can you guess which bowl of porridge I decided to eat? Ding, ding, ding, the third bowl. After the 30 minutes of much needed rest, I venture downstairs with my daughter, and make breakfast for the kids while they watch an episode of their favorite show on Netflix. My day continues on and since I’m playing the role of Goldilocks, I am of course greeted by many more choices, which are typically a little more difficult than that of choosing the most comfortable chair.
In the parenting world it is so easy to take a black and white approach to making choices with our children especially when we feel the need to give them permission or not. We choose bowl one or two thinking they are the only options. One reactive and the other gentle and kind. Of course we want to parent from the second place, but is that always a possibility? Is there maybe times when we choose a bowl that isn’t so hot or cold, but that’s just right for us at the moment? What’s so great about having that third choice is we become less rigid and more flexible. We take into account not only our current capacity but also how our kids are currently able to handle the situation. We parent from a place of curiosity and love. Leading from our heart, rather than parenting from how we think we should be or letting our emotions take charge.
Let’s fast forward to the end of the day, Goldilocks is so tired and ready to snuggle in her bed and fall fast asleep. She/me then hears the three bears breathing heavily on her face, her eyes open and the idea of a beautiful night’s rest is gone, poof! My “three bears” are actually just another analogy to the story. For me, rather than the actual threat of bears mauling me in bed, it’s just a steady flow of judgment and guilt. My overactive brain tells me all of the things I should have done better, “why can’t I stick to my rules, be curious about them, be more gentle, I shouldn’t have yelled at my daughter today, I should have done laundry, we should have read more books and finished that science project” YADA, YADA, YADA!
The beautiful thing about having choices is that I can take that same strategy from earlier in my day and apply it to how I treat myself in this moment. The moment of “Mom Guilt”, self-aggression and not being “good enough”.
I of course have the same choice as Goldilocks, to run the hell out of that dangerous situation and never look back. By stuffing my feelings down and away I could grab my phone, scroll for an unhealthy amount of time and aimlessly ignore the thoughts until I become sleepy again.
I could lay wide awake in bed coming up with solutions on how to do things better from here on out, maybe read a new parenting book or tell myself I SHOULD and WILL be a better mom tomorrow.
OR, (this one is my just right porridge, the secret sauce) I can take a moment to SacredSeat, listen to the voices that are telling me I’m not good enough and acknowledge them! I tell myself of course you wanted to parent like freaking Mary Poppins today, BUT the REALITY is my capacity for “adulting” was limited and that is more than okay. I offer myself kindness, because I did the best I could.
So rather than running away from the three bears, yelling at them, or trying to create a different situation in which they aren’t mad, I instead wrap them in a big bear hug and offer them only kindness.
I didn’t always have the ability to pause and see a variety of choices in my parenting. My go to was to react, think later, followed by guilt. Purejoy taught me that by bringing awareness into the situation I can see different perspectives and make the best possible choice at that moment. But, even when I don’t, because let’s be honest, no one is a perfect parent. I can still be gentle with myself and in turn, gentle with my kids. For me, self- aggression takes me completely away from the concept of choices. I’m angry with myself, so in turn I act out of my emotions, losing the ability to pause. What that looks like is an angry mom yelling at her kids, then my children following that same pattern. My support to any parent reading this blog is to keep the story of Goldilocks and Three Bears in the back of your mind. By offering little moments of awareness, kindness and pauses when possible, hopefully you can pick the “porridge” that is just right for you.
Brittany van Emmerik is a Certified Purejoy Coach, LMT and homeschool mom of two. Brittany supports new homeschool parents in discovering healthy alternatives to conventional schooling. She knows how difficult it can be taking on the responsibility of educating your child and that each journey is very unique. By inviting her clients to look deeply into traditional expectations and preconceived notions, they work side-by-side to create confidence and a healthy homeschool environment personal to the client and their children.