The Most Important Parenting Lesson I’ve Learned

The Most Important Parenting Lesson I’ve Learned

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I can still remember so clearly the single most difficult day of being a mother (so far).
I can remember this day so vividly and just thinking about it brings me right back. It was the day I made a decision to break the cycle of what I grew up around: impatience.
Let me explain.

On this day, Julia was about four months old and in the throws of the withdrawal process for her seizure medication she had been on since her 2nd day of life. I’ve talked extensively here before about her birth injury (HIE) so I won’t rehash it all but basically because she had seizures the day after her birth she had to be put on a does of seizure medication to make sure she didn’t have any more.

I had never imagined the possibility of having to bring home my baby and give them two doses of medication through a syringe (we couldn’t depend on putting it in her bottle because she had such bad reflux and we needed to know if she was actually getting the medication or throwing it up.) each day. It was terrifying, especially for new parents who were learning all the normal new parent things on top of the stress of an unexpected birth injury and unclear future. But we made it. At the 3 month appointment check up her neurologist gave us the “ok” to start tapering down the dose slowly so she could be off it for good.

This process wound up being way harder than I thought it would be. While withdrawing from the medication (which was a small dose to begin with) she became very irritable and inconsolable at times. I remember this one day in particular where it was mid morning. She was fed, changed, had tummy time and played and was ready for a nap but she was having one of these difficult spells of scream/crying and just being very stiff and upset and there was literally absolutely nothing I could do to calm her down. I was getting more anxious by the moment, holding her, rocking her, my heart racing. Until finally I just had to set her down in her bassinet, where she would be safe, and take a moment and walk into the other room to breath and collect myself. My stress could have only been rubbing off on her at that point.

I felt completely burnt out, worn down and defeated. I felt defeated for not being able to calm her, I felt horrible for not being able to combat my own anxiety about the situation and stay calm for her, I felt awful for having to take a step back. But this is so important for all moms to hear: sometimes you need a moment. To take a step back. To breath. To recollect yourself. So that you can go back to your baby and try again. Make sure they are safe, and get a moment to yourself to recollect.

There have been many moments since this day where my patience has wore incredibly thin but I heard some advice in a podcast once that really stuck with me, and reminded me of that difficult day when Julia was 4 months old.

It’s about how we respond to stress, negative emotions and impatience. The advice instructed that when you find yourself getting frustrated and about to maybe yell, or lose your patience, before you let the negative emotion or action consume you or come out of you – PAUSE. Force yourself to completely stop what you’re doing and also shut down the negative thought in your brain and pause for 3 full seconds. When you are done pausing, take a deep breath and try again. Find a way to respond to the situation more positively or at least neutrally. Neuroscientists have said that when you resist acting on your anger (this includes even just yelling or snapping at someone) you are actually rewiring your brain to be more calm and loving.

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This lesson has been HUGE for me in my life. I never wanted to be the mom who yells all the time, shuts her child down, or lacks patience. I’ve been on the receiving end of that method of parenting and I’ll tell you that the side affects of growing up that way are not good. It closes you off emotionally and ruins your self esteem. It also fails to teach children how to deal with their emotions. If we constantly snap and lose our patience, how can we expect any different from them?

At a young age children do not yet have the neural pathways to properly calm down their often stormy emotions and tend to have tantrums and fits, and this is totally normal. However it is up to us as parents to model appropriate behavior and teach them how to respond in different situations and to express their feelings in positive ways.

I truly do believe in the “pause”. I believe the more you work on this technique the easier it gets, or a least this has been true for me.  I grew up having a constant fear of punishment, and was always ready to be yelled at for any little wrongdoing or mistake. As an adult I have seen the impact living that way for so many years has had on me. It has had negative impacts. Being on a tight leash and expected to be well behaved constantly didn’t make me a more dedicated or hardworking human being. Not even a little. If anything it made me deeply apathetic for years until I started to want better for myself. I don’t want my children to have to start out with that kind of baggage.

I’ll end the post with this — Being a mother has been the most interesting, difficult, heart warming and eye opening journey of my life so far. It is incredible and terrifying at the same time. It is difficult because I want to do the right thing and break the cycle and in the process of learning to be the right mom for my daughter, (because there is no one right way to parent every single child) I’ve had to really look at my life and the deeply ingrained wounds from my childhood and how they still affect who I am today. It takes a lot of soul searching but it is so worth it to invest on healing yourself so you can also give your child the best version of you; which you and they both, deserve.

I know I’m not the only woman out there, the only mother, struggling but dedicated to giving her child the things she didn’t have… and you all know I’m not talking about material things. Please know — you’re not alone. We’re in this together, and sharing our stories is important. I am always here to talk to any mama who needs a shoulder to lean on.

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Sending you love and positivity,

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