Puilt *Parent Guilt

1909559_5032225223_5452_nListen… both moms and dads suffer from guilt all the time when it comes to their kids. Sometimes it is a neurosis that far exceeds what is to be considered normal, wreaking havoc with the psychology of the brain and the dynamics of the family. Sometimes, the impact of puilt is so strong that it begins to fray at the edges of the natural internal joy granted through childbirth.

Slowly but surely, parents are so deeply entrenched in their feelings of remorse and regret that they often live a double-life filled with external demonstration of contentment warring with an internal battle of sadness, self-hate and isolation.

But I am not hear to bear the grim news that puilt is incurable, untreatable and often invisible when experienced by individuals- I am her to tell you that ALL THIS- all of it- NO QUALIFICATIONS, JUSTIFICATIONS, EXCEPTIONS, DEGREES or INTENSITY of puilt IS NORMAL.

Did you hear me? Yes. Normal. Your love for your kids makes you want to shake the heavens and crush the earth to give them what they need. Your inherent need to protect them drives you insane with doubt and thoughts (mixed with vivid imaginings in my case) of the various ways your children will be harmed. Every time I hear a story of a child being hit by a car, diagnosed with a chronic illness or abducted- I see my child’s face. Despite the sheer madness of it all- this is normal. You were made to love them beyond reason.

This sums up the “beyond reason” portion.

IMG_0879I know we have all asked ourselves at one point or another these questions: “Do I do enough?” “Are they happy?” “Am I working too much?” “Are they angry because I get angry?” “Are they yelling because I yell?” “Should I have spent more time in the car talking with them than on the phone?” “Am I horrible because they ate McDonald’s three days this week?” “Are my parenting skills destructive?” “Am I too protective?” “Are they developing abnormally because of me?” “Should I have exercised more so they can be healthier?” “Am I horrible if I don’t have technology? “Why are they so selfish- am I spoiling them?” “Did I eat too much when I was pregnant with her?” “Does he have seizures because I can’t stay up all night to watch him breathe?”

Puilt makes it evidently clear that we are responsible for these little lives that God made for us and we are forever filled with it.

But as I was in the ambulance with my toddler and puilt is ransacking my every pore and penetrating my every cell, the paramedic looked at me and said “I was in your house and I saw the crosses, I know you are religious.” I nodded hesitantly while secretly praying that this will not initiate a discourse on the theoretical epistemology of spirituality. Then he proceeded to say to me “When my baby had seizures, I was terrified and I am a paramedic. I get it. This is tough but your son is not yours.” Pause. Really awkward though because this was either a classic Star Wars confession of “Sylvia, I am his father” or an immense recognition of guilt “I switched our kids at birth” type of thing.

It was neither.

He looked at me and said, confidently, poignantly and almost sadly “God loans us these beautiful tiny beings so we can love and adore them but ultimately they are not ours, they are His.”

What?!

Let that sink in. The gravity of what he is saying. It angered me but in some strange way, it also brought me comfort.

God gives us our children with the full knowledge and complete expectation that we will mess it up somewhere along the way. He knows our limitations and our strengths, cause’ ahem, He created us. So why do we take it upon ourselves to believe or live our lives as if we are in control? How can we honestly say we could change anything or everything if we don’t have an ounce of control over their health (from a chronic illness perspective)?

So what does this mean for us in regards to puilt?

I don’t know- maybe it means that we need to relax a bit and know that the Maker will take care of His creation. Maybe you should only feel puilt about what you can control? Maybe we should…wait for it…surrender our children to the will of God.

This means we try our best. We love and cuddle, treat and snuggle, feed and discipline, clean and pray for them but at the end of the day- we are just taking care of them for God. We are grooming them for Heaven. We are teaching them values and ethics that they can utilize to become the best versions of themselves possible.

We are trainers working with a most beautiful creation.

So how am I dealing with the seizures and the puilt and the anger and resentment? I am getting through it day by day. I don’t feel guilty about feeling puilt because I know that the One who made me knows me so I have nothing to feel ashamed about.

Whether you are a mom and dad, adoptive or foster parent, single parent or blended family- remember this- the One who made you knew you before He decided if you should, could, would have a child. Whether it is natural, adopted or fostered- love them like they are the Almighty’s and let Him take care of them.

Blessings,

Smartignani

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Judgement and Consequence

I wanted to write this for a while but I don’t think I have enough hours in the day. With three active children under the age of 5, I am like a feather caught in a whirlwind torpedo of activities: potty training, teething, tantrums, tucking in, tickling, travelling and tumultuous transformations.  But I am still holding it together… I think.

I am sure oKasketaldi_haurra_001ther parents can see the wild look in my eyes because I haven’t slept in 6 years or the suspicious glances flicked at me because each of my children including the baby have a bump or scratch (all self-inflicted, I assure you). I am positive that other moms are looking at the way my 5-year-old crosses her arms and stomps and yells “NO! Mommy- I don’t want that!” and thinking that she is spoiled and lacking in discipline. Or shaking their heads when my almost 3-year-old decides to pick her nose and eat it (gross, right?) because we don’t correct her (which we do every time) and that she will forever be a perpetual proboscis picker.

Here is the thing… I don’t really care about what others are thinking or feeling or perceiving or believing. My world is centred on my children whom I know intimately since the moment of their first wail into the world.

I was at the mall the other day and in the little play area and I saw a mother struggling with her toddler while trying to jiggle her baby on her shoulder. She was getting so frustrated and her cheeks were flushed and her baby was getting quite stirred (literally and figuratively) because she was over-jiggling. The two moms next to me were talking about this particular poor soul and saying the following:

Lady 1: “Oh my, that little girl is NOT happy!”

Lady 2: “Mom needs to get a handle on her before X (her own toddler) sees that behaviour and starts to copy it!”

Lady 1: “Some people just don’t know how to control their kids! It’s because she decided to have a baby, the little girl is probably needing attention”

Lady 2: “Exactly! This is why I am spacing mine apart. Exactly for that reason”

At this point, I had enough. I huffed really audibly as I stood up and I spared them one sneer and a quick “You are far from perfect yourselves ladies!” and then I confidently and quickly approached the mom of the melting down toddler and shaken baby and softly said:

“It’s ok, mine do the same thing. My 2-year-old is in there playing happily, for now, can I offer you a hand? I have a baby too but he is sound asleep, would you like me to carry your little angel while you deal with your baby girl?”

The relief that washed over the mother was indescribable. She hesitated for about one second then she gave me her baby. I stood there making googly eyes at the baby and she calmed down and started to give me the sweetest smiles. I was singing her silly songs and dancing with her while her mom was dealing with her sister. The lady told her 2-year-old that she will get some Skittles if she just calms down and tells her what is wrong using her big girl words (we do the same). The toddler stood up and in between bouts of tears and noisy, wet sobs proclaimed, “I pooh”. Profound declaration but adequate explanation of her crappy disposition (pun intended).

Mom told her that it will be ok and that she will change her. Toddler hugged her and looked up and me. I smiled and I handed the baby back to mommy informing her that she will have to change two poopy diapers and that I know exactly what that is like too. She took the baby and the toddler and went to the family washroom. I walked back to the main benches where judgy lady 1 & 2 are sitting and I wedge myself right next to them. My daughter is standing aside as one of their sons shoves another child off the climbing thingy. Lady 2 who was afraid of the toddler’s behaviour affecting her angelic son turns to her friends and says “He is so assertive- isn’t that cute?”

Wow. Perceptions.

I turn to her and gently respond:

“That is not being assertive, that is called being aggressive. Assertive is standing up for yourself and giving your opinion but what he is doing is pushing and shoving other children out of his way. That is being aggressive. So is judging a mom who is in the middle of a toddler meltdown. You should really stop and look at your house made of glass before you start throwing rocks!”

Yup. That happened. True story. I did say all that.

I expected a fight. I expected cursing. I even expected her to punch me in the face.

Instead, I got a teary and ashamed lady who quietly said “You are right. He is a little terror and I don’t know what to do with him? What should I do? He is our only child and I am having a terrible time bearing another child. I am scared that he will be the only child and that he will become a bully. I was bullied in school by a boy. I don’t want my son to be that way.”

Ah, what? What just happened? This, I did not expect.

I proceeded to spend the next hour with this lady and her friend who felt equally ashamed and mom of toddler and baby at the special play place at the mall. After the apologies and the brief discussion about how we should be kind to one another and stop the judging because we ALL need help, we started discussing strategies and parenting tricks that worked for each of us.

My toddler and the baby got tired and hungry and wanted to leave but I certainly did not. We agreed to meet again soon and we even exchanged contact information. We went from being four strangers waiting on their kids to play to four friends who joined the same Mommy Facebook Group.

It was super cool and I even got to hold the little ray of sunshine baby girl again while the lady I helped held my baby boy. All around awesomeness.

Moral of the story:

STOP judging other moms. Get off your butt and help. You are not perfect. Your children are far from perfect as well. The only perfection is founded in our humanity. So like Ellen DeGeneres says “Be kind to one another”.

Love,

SMartignani

…and she is now starting school!

100_0955Okay. So my little baby who started me on writing these blogs back in 2011 is now starting junior kindergarten! I can’t believe how time flew. I am terrified of her going to school.

She is not scared but then again, she has no idea how mean kids can be and how hard school can be. She wears glasses. She is too little. She has a slight lisp. She cries- A LOT.

She is a walking magnet for a bully!

I am not sure what I can do to overcome this senseless and paralyzing fear of her going to school. Other than set her up with a nanny cam to track everything that happens, everyday, at every minute while she is away from me. Wait- that is a fabulous idea!! No, but wait, where can I hide it without it being completely and utterly obvious?

I can’t believe I am even thinking it. Spying on my child. For her own good? OMG. I am one of those moms!!

Ok. Deep breath. It is going to be ok. She is going to be alright. I don’t need to worry. I am being paranoid. Overreacting. Absolutely and incredibly overprotective.

I need to let her go. Millions of parents do it every year around the globe. She went to Summer Camp with children up to grade 6. She was fine. Mind you, her daddy was there the entire time (it was at our business and he is the principal at the camp) but still… she was good. The older boys and girls loved her. She defended herself and even gave the teachers a piece of her mind when she needed to but what if…

No… no what ifs. I am sending her to school tomorrow with confidence. I taught her to be kind. I taught her to speak up when she is angry or hurt. I taught her to run and scream when a stranger (be it man or woman, boy or girl) ask her if she wants a candy bar or invite her into their cars.

I taught her to remain close to her teachers. Not to let anyone touch her in her private places. I told her to tell me if anything hurts and if anyone hurts her in anyway.

I think I taught her enough. I think she will remember everything I taught her- hopefully.

Tomorrow, I will muster my courage and surrender the single most treasured being in my life to an educator. Tomorrow, I will look into the teacher’s eyes and let her know that she will have the power over my soul. My eldest child who was my greatest achievement of 2011. My daughter who is my angel and her younger sister’s light.

Tomorrow is the beginning of 18 years of academic challenges and accomplishments. 18 years of learning and scholastic strides. 18 years of incarcerated and strategic environmental osmosis of information.

Tomorrow is her first day of school and I almost wish it took a little longer for tomorrow to come.

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