Updated: Sep 9, 2020
I feel immeasurably blessed for all the hours I have been able to spend working with children in my therapy office. Children bring a delight and radiance to life that cannot be fully expressed by words. Even when struggling, children still manage to reveal a truth to our existence that we often forget and overlook as we age: the ability to live in momentary delight. Yet it pains me to say that I have seen many children struggle. I believe the greater truth is that behind every struggling child is a heartbroken, desperate, struggling parent. Not only have I seen it, I have lived it. Heartbroken because the most precious human being on the planet to you is hurting. Desperate because you do not know how to help, and you cannot find consistent guided support to walk you through what to do for that precious being. And struggling between scooping up the child in an effort to take their pain away versus the urge to scream at them which, inevitably, restarts the cycle back at heartbreak and desperation all anew. I’ve been that hurting mama. I have watched my children struggle, against themselves, the world, me….and I manically sought out guidance in what to do or say, desperate to help my child. All the while feeling more and more disconnected from them. Falling less and less in-love with them.
I think we deserve more as parents. I think our children deserve more from us. I don’t think it was meant to be this way, that a struggling child or struggling parent has to automatically mean a disappearance of connection and adoration between the two. It may not be the grand design that I wake up every day in-love with my children, the precious beings I have devoted countless hours to, whom I desire health and happiness for; whom I nurture, engage with, and endlessly cheer on (not to mention the untold hours of personal growth and exploration all in the name of “better parenting”). But most days? At least four out of seven? Even during the “difficult years”? Even when they roll their eyes and say the opposite of whatever I want them to say ON PURPOSE? Or when they tell me that literally everything is my fault (as if that is even possible)? Or when I specifically asked which juice they wanted, set it out for them, and then they revolt hysterically because it is the wrong juice. Yeah, I actually think so and I’ll tell you why: because one of the greatest pains in a parent’s heart is not being able to feeling connected to and in-love with your child. It makes it difficult to get up every day and take care of them. But parents do it because that is what parents are “supposed to do”. In the parent-child relationship, only the parent has a choice of whether or not to be there, so the parent steps up and does what is required, because your Higher Power gave them to you. All the reasons you tell yourself you are getting up and doing it for another day, but not because you are so delighted to be with them and deeply, madly, head over heels crazy about them. This disconnect causes an ache inside a parent’s heart that cannot be adequately described. So we are meant to feel more connected to them every day? No. Parts of most days? Why not?!
In order to get the desired connection, we need help. Help understanding them, understanding ourselves, sometimes understanding attachment, trauma, anxiety, communication, engagement, and development. Understanding how to implement different parenting strategies because the ones we are using aren’t working. Understanding how to relate to and parent a child that is too much like us or too much not like us. Sometimes understanding how our past gets in the way of the precious love we are trying to demonstrate to them every day. Or how the things of their past are getting in the way of the precious love they are trying to demonstrate to us every day. But we need someone to walk us through it all.
So I decided recently to shift the focus of my practice and do that very thing. Support parents, coach parents, train parents, no longer sit there and offer consultation once a month or every other month when I see too many broken hearts at the head of the family. The very place where change can happen and trickle down with great love and speed. So we can get back to delighting in, being in-love with the precious child we have, whether or not their behavior changes. Even though. Still.