Ever since Jillie crossed over into teendom, I’m either shocked, dismayed, angry, sad, impressed, proud, confused, “seriously?” or “wait, what?” For me, this has absolutely been one of the most challenging periods of parenthood thus far.
The mood swings, the attitude, the back talk, the disrespectful language, the terrible decisions, the doing dumb stuff…
And Elliott is only four months shy of entering this stage of life. But I guess this is growing up. (Cue Blink-182)
Even though my big kids are four years apart, they’re close enough in age to get under each other’s skin. Every time they’re near one another, an explosive fight ensues. This can happen at any time, in any place, and during any activity (i.e., a car ride, passing each other in the hall, dinnertime, on either side of the bathroom door, etc.).
It would be entertaining if it wasn’t so maddening. Like, there was zero reason [INSERT FIGHT IMPETUS] actually needed to become a thing. ZERO. (Cue The Smashing Pumpkins)
Unfortunately, my empathy knows no bounds. Initially, whoever appears to be the most hurt (aka the one not laughing) gets my support. But just as quickly, I’ll feel bad for the other one and offer to hear his/her side of the story. At which point, they will say “You always blame me. [INSERT NAME] never gets in trouble!”
This is why disciplining my children is so hard for me. The empath in me doesn’t want to upset anyone because inevitably I’ll be upset right along with them. If I make them feel crappy, I’ll feel crappy.
It’s doubly frustrating because I can also understand each person’s point of view in the matter. I can see where they’re coming from and why they acted the way that they did. In my mind, there’s never one person at fault or in the clear. No matter how I end up handling the situation, I don’t ever feel 100% satisfied or sure of the decisions I’ve made.
I used to compare myself to their dad and would envy his seeming ability to discipline the kids so effortlessly (and it sounded as if they actually listened!). I always thought I was a failure for not being able to dole out punishments and actually stick to them. My daughter would often tell me that I needed to “yell more” and that I was “too nice.” Of course, when I did yell, my daughter would have that “I’m trying really hard not to cry now” look and then I would feel horrible.
Damned if I do; damned if I don’t.
The fact is that our parenting approaches are just different; I was just too deep into the emotions of it all to see it. For a long time I thought that I was a bad parent and he was a good parent; I thought that I was “soft” and he was firm.
It took discovering that I was an empath for me to finally realize that I wasn’t a bad parent. I wasn’t able to separate my feelings from the situation at hand and he could. I was an empath who couldn’t be (and didn’t want to be) his version of a parent.
The next time my daughter criticized my parenting style, I told her honestly that I am not her father and that is not how I operate. Yelling does not equal good parenting, and being nice doesn’t equal bad parenting.
Since Jillie and Elliott do split their time between two households, I can see how having two parents who handle discipline differently could be confusing. Children need stability and consistency; changing homes every so often is already jarring, let alone having to adjust to varying tones and rules.
Frequently switching homes also causes a disruption in energy. I don’t know that anyone else is as aware of the shift as I am, but it’s pretty intense. Their initial arrival is always so overwhelming for me.
If you can imagine… (essentially) two teens—each with their own energetic ecosystem of feelings and hormones—(who are usually at odds with each other) crossing the threshold into a generally quiet and peaceful space.
Even though there are only two of them, I feel like a herd of elephants is stampeding through the front door. It’s A LOT to absorb.
A few days later, the energy dust does settle. We all reset and find our rhythm together as a six-piece family unit. I just keep reminding myself to breathe.
But more importantly, I set the intention every day to be kind to myself.
Being a parent… being an empath… being a woman… being an adult… being a human… is hard. The pressure is real. And it is heavy.
Beating myself up over not being the perfect parent serves no one. We’re all still learning and most of us are making it up as we go along, amirite?
So, it’s okay to give myself a pass every once in awhile. It’s important that I give myself permission to just feel my feelings and use them as guidance during this confusing time. In fact, it’s necessary.