I can't stop thinking about the inspiring talk I heard recently by Robin Berman, M.D., author of the book Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child With Love and Limits. One of the most challenging parts of parenthood, she said, is being an emotional grown-up.
It's hard enough to deal with all the practical and financial aspects of adulthood. But when you're tired or stressed or frustrated, it can take a lot of self-control not to have your own meltdown. Or to say something critical or sarcastic or insensitive that you'll regret later.
Of course, the opposite of acting like a grown-up is acting like a child. While it's perfectly normal for a little kid to be moody and self-centered and out-of-control sometimes, it's our job as parents to put our own needs and issues aside and focus on what's best for our kids. That doesn't mean we should be selfless or indulge their every whim, but we have to be mature enough to take the high road, to think before we speak, and to not expect our kids to make us feel better.
I'm sure you can tell plenty of stories about other parents you know who've taken the low road. However, we all have moments when we'd like a Mommy do-over.
Just one of my own examples: My 10-year-old has been having nightmares lately, and she's been calling for me repeatedly through the night. She gets truly frightened, and I have to sit with her and help her do breathing exercises and visualize happy scenes instead of scary ones. But we've both been losing a lot of sleep. There have been nights when I've seemed angry about being woken up (again), and I hate that. So I've apologized. The nightmares aren't her fault. I want her to know that I have faith that she will get through this rocky patch and that I'm here to support her.
"No parent ever gets it right the first time...parenting is the ultimate in on-the-job training," writes Dr. Berman. "Lucky for us, kids are very forgiving. "
Here are some other quotes that have stuck with me:
"Parenting is a divine invitation to be your best self."
"You wouldn't cough on your child without covering your mouth. So make sure your unresolved issues don't infect your children."
"If you feel your control or patience waning, remind yourself of the role you want to be remembered for: hero, not villain; protector, not persecutor."
"Why is it we pay more attention to recharging our smartphones than to recharging ourselves? If we were smart, we'd pay attention when our battery light started flashing 'low.'"
"No matter what difficulties you run into with your children, keep imagining them at their best. Believing things will get better gives you both something to hold on to until they do."
Dr. Berman is the newest member of our expert Board of Advisors, and you'll be hearing more of her voice in our pages. Treat yourself to a copy of her book.
Diane Debrovner is the deputy editor of Parents and the mother of two daughters.
Photo of mom and daughter with painted faces via Shutterstock