Holy crap, ya’ll.
There are a LOT of books about parenting. I mean, I knew this. It’s a huge industry. (Note to self: future post about parenting books replacing ancestor & village wisdom).
I’ve decided that this is the year I become the parent I want to be: peaceful. Calm. Connected. Mindful. Responsive rather than reactive. Steady, not mercuric.
That is not how I am now. I am patient and quiet, and then suddenly, I’m not. I lose my shit on the daily, sometimes the hourly. I drop the f-bomb to my children on an uncomfortably regular basis. I stomp and slam and sometimes even throw. I am derisive and derogatory. I have made myself hoarse with yelling. I do not always use gentle hands.
The depth of shame this causes me is unfathomable. I have sobbed for hours, certain of the trauma I am causing the little ones I love so dearly and cognizant of how my behavior ripples out to the rest of the family. I have curled up in a ball on the floors of my bedroom and bathroom. I have emotionally withdrawn into myself. I have contemplated leaving, certain that everyone would be much better off without me. I have even mildly self-injured. (I am safe, and I am not suicidal. I’m just offering full disclosure here.)
And I’m done. I do not like the person I have become. It is utterly exhausting, both the emotional rollercoaster and the persistent self-loathing (known by Matt and me as “sloathing”). It is worrying, as I understand it is not sustainable and will not lead to the kind of relationship I want with my children. I want my home and I to be safe havens, a place of security and support. I don’t want it to be a place where everyone feels on edge wondering what kind of day I’m having and if I’ll explode at the next moment. I experienced this kind of environment as a child and have no desire to perpetuate it.
So this is the year it changes. I am embarking on a journey of study of peaceful parenting as well as delving into the inner work that I know is necessary to actually make it happen. I cannot have one without the other.
I am searching for a therapist to work with (long overdue). I have taken a sabbatical from social media, with a goal of staying away for the whole year. I am figuring out a rhythm to ensure that all my responsibilities–work, parenting, homeschooling, marriage and other adult relationships, house renovations (more on that in a later post), farm & garden, household management–get the attention and care they need so that I can stop constantly feeling like I am failing at everything. I am working to create a space in each day for practices that nurture my being: quiet; meditation and prayer; moving my body; music and laughter; spending time outdoors; play and creativity; writing; and reading.
Which brings me back to where I began: the books.
I am building a list of books to read this year to assist me in my journey, and I’m already well past 50, which means by the time the list is finished I’ll be reading 1-2 books a week just in pursuit of this goal, nevermind the possibility of other topics which I find interesting, or maybe even a novel or two.
I have no idea if I can accomplish this, and I accept that. This might very well be a multi-year journey. Honestly, it probably is a life-long one. Much like being in recovery from addiction, this is work that I will have to tackle one day at a time, and recognize that there will not be a point where I’m finished.
I hope to document my journey in this blog, accompanied by peeks into life renovating and rejuvenating an 18th century New England farmhouse and creating a homestead on our 19 acres, reviews of the books and other resources I encounter, maybe some recipes and other home-making tidbits, homeschool projects and lessons…who knows?
A few weeks ago, we received “star words” during worship at church. The word I received to guide me through the coming year was HOPE.
Yes, I think, in the face of my despair and desperation, and in the midst of all else that is going on in the world, that will do nicely. There is yet hope.
I’ll only add that for those of us without living parents, and someone who moves often enough that village constantly in transition, the gifts these writers offer to me as a parent are immense.