(The title of this post is the subject of the email from the reader.) Anon writes:
I have a problem. I am the mom of an only child (daughter, newly 5), and
I don’t know what the hell I’m doing most days. I know people say kids
don’t have instruction manuals or whatever. But most other people seem
to have *some* confidence in the things they are doing. I do not. Not
one bit. All I do is question whether I’m doing the right things. And
hope to make it through the day without anyone yelling at another – and
yes, that includes me.
I am embarrassed about my parenting style, such as it is. My daughter is
not an easy child. Other people talk about their kids whining or
yelling when you tell them no. I’m in the “screaming and crying her fool
head off until the parent snaps and yells and then the kid screams some
more” boat. There’s only so much screaming I can handle.
There’s only so much not listening I can handle! I am frequently in the
middle of a sentence *right next* to her and she starts talking about
something else. I will say something to her and ask her what I just said
and she can’t tell me. Either my child is ADHD – and I’m not saying
that lightly – (meaning that life just frustrates the crap out of her so
she screams a lot) or she is the most willful and rude child in
I try so hard to do what I should. I give limits. I encourage
confidence. I give attention. I try, I swear I do. But there’s a point
that I just cannot fight any more because I’m about to lose my shit. At
that point I try to figure out a way to get her settled without seeming
weak but I doubt it works, given the results. I think it’s made my
daughter a tyrant. And I feel like crap about it and every time she
acts up I feel this panic and anger coming because it’s my fault. I’ve
given in too much.
There’s so much guilt, from my head and from others. I have been told
since my daughter was a baby that I give her too much attention and I’ve
been weak. “She’s your only and so you hold her too much, you don’t
make her wait when she’s crying for something, you let her have a sippy
cup of water in her bed (recommended by her pediatrician), you should
let her cry herself to sleep, oh she screams not just cries, well that’s
your fault too. Hold the door shut on her while she screams at naptime.
Sometimes they just need a swat. Do you WANT to make it so no one wants
to have her stay the night anywhere? She doesn’t do that when she’s
with us because we’re firm with her.” I hide how I deal with my daughter
a lot because some family disagrees and I can’t take the conflict. All
I’m trying to do is stay sane – and I don’t say that lightly either; I
am bipolar and I had a very hard time the first 2.5 years.
I’ve read Ask Moxie since just after she was born. I’ve seen you say
multiple times that we are the best parent for our children. Given my
track record so far I think I might be the exception that proves the
PLEASE, tell me I’m not the only one this lost and panicked every day.
Please, tell me there’s other people who are afraid to be honest about
how they parent. Please, tell me I’m not the only one so overwhelmed by
fear of judgement they’ve considered moving away where there’s no family
to judge. Okay…tell me the truth instead.
1. You are not the only one who feels lost and panicked. Parenting is REALLY REALLY HARD.
2. You’re hanging out with the wrong people. Seriously. I don’t want to say the word jackasses, but.
The idea that responding to your child’s basic needs is going to hurt them is asinine. Picking up, cuddling, holding, responding to your child is the entire point. If someone is telling you that responding to your child’s needs is wrong or is hurting your child or is causing problems, the problem is with that person.
Give your child what she needs. That changes from day to day. It changes as she gets older. But she always needs you.
It sounds like your daughter needs you ESPECIALLY because she is higher needs and more intense. People are who they are, and if you hadn’t responded to this little high-needs person, what would have happened to her? You are giving her the building blocks of knowing that she is loved, and home is inside her. When she’s ready she’ll walk into independence, even if she’s never as bold and independent as some other kids who are wired differently. She is who she is. And she’s lucky she has a mom who responds to her.
3. It sounds to me like she’s got some kind of protecting-her-borders stuff going on. Like she’s creating a wall of sound around herself, somehow, to either protect herself or get rid of the bad. I’ve written about Tension Releasers here and in the Tension Increasers and Tension Releasers MoxieTopic , and one thing about them is that they release the tension almost by throwing it outward. I’m wondering what would happen if you just witnessed it while she was tossing off her tension instead of feeling like you had to fix it. At the very least you wouldn’t end up yelling and making yourself feel worse.
4. I think it’ll get a little easier when she gets to school because a) she’ll be older, and b) you’ll have a wider range of kids to compare to and see that she’s normal, and c) you’ll have a wider range of parents to compare to to see that you’re normal, and d) you’ll have teachers who’ve seen tons and tons of kids to help you get perspective (and who may have great techniques to help you respond to your daughter in a way that de-escalates). Back to school is back to having another adult to help you. (Big hugs to all the teachers out there.)
4. I wish you had some good support. I know that the commenters are going to jump in and help (and suggest some resources for parenting high-needs kids, please) . But it would be an enormous help for you if you had some other parents to be with who could see the good way you respond to your daughter and who could help you troubleshoot when you need it instead of judging. I might try Mom Meet Mom (run by our friend Julia) to see if you can find other moms nearby who are parenting their kids responsively, like you are.
And since you mentioned that you’re bi-polar, I’m guessing you’re on top of your meds. But I wouldn’t forget about nutritional support–remember that parenting sucks it out of you, so you need to make sure you’re getting enough B vitamins, magnesium, and Omega 3s (fish oil or flax seed oil) . Supplementing with those might help you feel less anxious.
5. You are not alone. And by responding to your daughter and trying different things you will figure it out. I’m sorry you’re taking so much criticism, and glad you’re protecting yourself from them.
Readers, any support or thoughts for Anon?