I can’t really remember where I heard this phrase, but it struck a chord with me at the time and has remained at the back of my mind ever since.
Raising children is a full contact sport.
There is just so much truth in that statement. It is just you and them. No gaps, no external equipment. You, your attitudes, expectations and behaviours versus the emerging attitudes, expectations and behaviours of your children.
Then this morning I read this excellent post over at Simple Mom. It reflects on those very issues of closeness, distance and the ever waxing and waning of them. I found the analogy of relating to my children like I was steering my car into an icy skid very appropriate, and it now joins the full contact comment.
You’ve got to steer into the skid.
Just like driving, raising children is much easier when the sun is shining and everyone is happy and going along with the plan. It is much harder when conditions are not ideal, and everyone is suffering from any one of life’s various malaises.
In the Oh Waily household we have had quite a bit of stress and upheaval through the recent relocation and sundry other work related issues. Naturally this puts the children into a skid, as well as the parents. Everyone is focusing on pulling back on their own steering wheels. Just like the skid analogy, this makes for leaving the road rather than regaining control of the car.
As Megan points out, slowing down is a very good thing to do once you notice you have reached this stage. By taking things slower everyone has a chance to take a breath. As parents we can see that we’ve been yanking too hard on the steering wheel and that it is causing the opposite responses to the ones we want. When I reached this conclusion I wondered what on earth I was thinking and why I didn’t notice earlier.
Autopilot. Automatic stress response. Call it what you will. It’s when that small reptilian part of your brain engages in mutiny. It clouds judgement and clear thought. We like to think we are reasoning creatures, but frankly when you press enough stress buttons we revert back and chaos of all sorts can be the result.
When children are pushing and pulling at you, both figuratively and literally it can be hard to stay engaged, to steer into the skid. This is more so when the pushing and pulling is happening as a result of surrounding life stresses. Working on your own stress levels and addressing issues head on so that you can be in control of your parenting skid is the goal.
Re-establishing any connections with your kids that have become strained is part of the process. This can take the form of more physical contact, especially if you have been distracted and hugs or kisses have become cursory “automated” actions. So can making special one-to-one time where the child who has been having the most trouble can get your full attention with no external distractions. I can recommend picking something your little one likes to do and spending a full morning doing it together.
Just like all areas of parenting, the difficult times are a test of character. Sometimes you run and hide, other times you head right into the mêlée. The key is working on your combat skills so that you are prepared and ready to do your very best, for you and your children.
Do you steer into the skid? If so, what sort of things do you do?