It's too predictable.
You're either going to sit down and score yourself insanely low on all of the objectives being measured (with of course, the expectation that your supervisor will most certainly stop you in your tracks and share that you are much better at your job than you believe you are and assist in inflating your ego larger than it already is) or you will score yourself wickedly high, because let's be honest here - you work hard and why on God's green earth would you sell yourself short (unless you're just trying to prevent yourself from being hammered down with the possible truth that you are working too hard and not really accomplishing as much or doing as well as you think you're doing.).
It's all a game friends. It's all an illusion.
But isn't it also what we, as parents do all. the. time.
We assess, we measure, we evaluate, we draw conclusions, we observe and talk to death about our parenting choices, styles, beliefs. We self evaluate on a minute-to-minute, day-to-day, incident-by-incident, experience-by-experience basis. It's how we determine how awesome we are as parents or how incredibly wretched we are in what we perceive as our failures.
Lately, I've been feeling like a failure.
Not an "I've got a kid who is out of control" failure but an "I feel judged by other parents; my daughter is a whining puppet; I'm not doing enough, not being enough; Who is this child I'm raising?" failure.
It all started at story time.
We have the best story time.
30 minutes of active story telling, rhyming, singing, dancing.
30 minutes of free play.
It's, in short, one of Little Tomatoes favorite hours of most days.
I was speaking with a friend I had met for the oh, so, special Dinosaur Romp edition of story time. Her son and Little Tomato, they really enjoy being together. Truth be told. I really enjoy getting together with said son and his Mama too. She parents much like us. It's comforting. She's encouraging.
How Does A Dinosaur Say Good Night had just finished up and free time was impending. Said friend and I were, as often happens, chattin' it up when I heard it and watched it happen.
"No Little Tomato, we don't color on Sam's head. We color on the paper."
Following the lines of logic, Little Tomato took a piece of paper from the coloring table, placed it over Sam's head and began to color.
"No Little Tomato, we don't do that either."
Directions given by a woman I often speak with in and outside of story time. A woman whom I often communicate with on a regular basis and was attending story time that day with her 15 month old son, a little boy Little Tomato often has contact with.
It was after her second set of directions to Little Tomato that, if asked, my performance evaluation would have been turned in completely blank with a red stamp marking "failure".
How I perceived the look Sam's mother shot my way, it tore me into shreds of grated refuse.
And the litany of parenting failures grew deeper roots, sprouted leaves of lies and spread an umbrella of false expectations and beliefs that only harm the child-parent relationship as opposed to heal it.
This is the problem. I thought Little Tomato was genius! The idea that she was even able to put together that quite logical process of action was quite impressive to this Mama. What I felt though, seconds later, as a response to "the look" was the following:
- I don't have any control over my child. If I did she would not be dusting other children's hair with crayons nor would she even be told that she shouldn't do that because she would intuitively be respecting other children's personal space.
- My child doesn't know how to follow directions. If she did she would know that you use crayons on paper on table.
- I don't discipline my child often or quickly enough. The moment I saw Little Tomato lifting a crayon toward another child's head I should have stepped in, immediately corrected and then stood there to make sure she didn't try it again. Focus on child, not on the conversation with another human being over the age of two.
- My style of parenting is completely wrong! Why do I trust my two year old to make her own decisions when the well-being of other children is at risk? Why do I allow my child to make decisions that are not "good decisions"? What am I even doing having two children under my c.o.n.s.t.a.n.t. supervision? Who have me ovaries in the first place?
I fell apart. I mean right there, in story time, I fell apart. We're talking tears here friends. Real trickles of salty drops began to inch toward the wells of my eyes and I bolted. I glanced at the friend I was speaking with and with a shot of empathy she picked up her son and we exited story time, the library, in silence.
It all seems a little dramatic, doesn't it?
Probably because that's more less how it was than how it felt.
It was, shall we say, the needle that broke the camel's back.
My emotions were raw.
We were on day four of non-stop whining, correcting, rephrasing, guiding, supporting, fit-throwing, empathizing and my parenting patience was thinning with each passing day.
The only words keeping me a float, Draw Closer.
Today, the moment when I am most repelled by a child’s behavior, that is my sign to draw the very closest to that child.
Today, I will pray to speak words that are only STRONG words, words that make these children feel strong. Grace words. Grace is the only non-toxic air. All other words I breathe are death words.
But toxic words were not only begging to be released into a full throttle attack on a learning, processing, passionate, strong two year old but into my very own heart.
Toxic words were beginning to strangle my very own heart. The very heart that has been ordained to nurture, love, empathize with this two year old child I have been given to care for, protect, guide.
I was sure right then and there that I was raising a serial killer and a child who will never know boundaries nor will ever treat any other human with respect.
Obviously the person who would self-score insanely low on a personal evaluation only to have her supervisor build them back up and shower them with blessings of positive affirmations and feel-good support, I called my mom, whom I knew would love me, love my daughter, love the parenting I am offering Little Tomato.
Then I called her. My companion. My friend. A woman whom I love for many reasons, one of which is how she parents. Not that it's perfect, mind you, but that it's lovely and love and seeped in Jesus.
Later, I sat with Jake. This man who every. single. day. (yes, every. single. day.) tells me what an amazing mom & partner I am. I sat with him, respective wine in his glass, tea in mine, and poured my toxic beliefs all over his already stained work scrubs. I purged all that I believe I am, should be, am not, could become and will only be if I practice death.
I drew closer to the Spirit that sustains and reached out to those who would reach back, with arms of welcoming and trusting and learning and patience with my elimination waste of all things that prevent me from accepting self and accepting Little Tomato as she is, in all of her toddler ways.
So I sat down and erased each and every one of those self-imposed negative performance reviews.
I was honest in my evaluation.
Taking guidance from the Parenting Manifesto I strive to follow each day -
- Do I seek to make our home a house of prayer? Do I invite our children to come move into an interior space that lives with God? Yes, most days. I could ask Little Tomato to accompany me more in my practice of the Sacred Pauses.
- Do I transfigure all things into beauty, and refusing to see anything else? Yes, most days. I could be more intentional in verbalizing these intentional mental transitions to Little Tomato. With hopes that she will learn the practice of seeing beyond and within.
- Do I focus on the temporary, the hurry? Or will I choose to believe and live in the belief that there are no emergencies, that only amateurs hurry? I actually believe I do a pretty darn good job of not living our lives on the brink of an impending emergency. Dear Lord, help me to focus even more so within this season of self-imposed hurry.
- When stress mounts, do I pray to dismount it with gratitude? I have been spoken to deeply through our practice of assisting Little Tomato in finding her joy and verbalizing, giving name, to things that show her shadows of God. Lord, teach me how to dismount her season of challenging with an always available love.
- Do I pray to speak words that are only STRONG words into our children? Yes. Lately though it's been more difficult that other seasons. Frustration with potty-training (we have "given up" for the time) and the need for constant attention is wearing on my spirit. Keep me alert God. Alert to my words, my tone of voice, my ability to shape how she perceives herself and her place in this world. May I only use strong, grace-filled words.
- Do I pray to be consistently consistent? Creating safe rhythms that our children can find security in? Creating daily ceremonies because everyday we are CELEBRATING the gift of now? This is where I could strongly invest more energy, creating simple every day rituals that usher thanksgiving and celebration into the very hearts and spirits of our children.
- When I am most repelled by a child’s behavior, do I draw the very closest to that child? I sure am trying. I need to not focus so much on what I'm "not getting done" re or "not accomplishing" when I am drawing closer but focus more on the small space between my children & I when I do intentionally choose to draw closer to them when I am most repelled, repulsed.
- Do I hug each of my children as many times as I serve them meals? I totally score over 100% (if there is such a thing) on this one. My children are expert kiss & hug absorbers and I am a professional kisser and hugger.
- Are my priorities on all Things Unseen? Not all of the time. May this be my prayer and focus of attention today - on all things unseen. Things the light often does not touch unless welcomed.
- Do I laugh? Will I let our children laugh, creating a culture of joy? Yes, yes and yes. Although, let's speak truth here, I could probably laugh more - especially when I'm yelling, "Stop, stop, stop!" as she is pulling all of the ornaments off the Christmas tree because she is simply curious and wants to pay special attention to each and every one of them. I could laugh and bask in the beauty of her curiosity as opposed to dread putting them all back on with her.
If I choose to self-evaluate today, this is what I will choose to evaluate myself, our children, our family, our home on.
And keeping perspective in the journey. Everything else, or so I tell myself, will come with time.