My dreams of parenthood did not include giving myself time outs more often than to my child.
Maybe that's an exaggeration. But my time outs mean I walk away to avoid yelling or making threats I can't keep while she laughs and ignores me or tells a joke involving bodily functions. She knows a big button for me is not being shown respect. So she pushes it to see me blow.
Even before our daughter came along I've enjoyed reading books about spirituality. One book, by Neale Donald Walsh, Friendship with God, I recently reread. He talked about accepting what is in front of us. I guess that would apply to those times when I needed a time out?
But accepting her tantrums and meltdowns? Is he crazy? Isn't it my job as a parent to control my child's behavior or manage it?
As a licensed clinical social worker, I spent sixteen years in the counseling field offering advice to families on various issues including parenting. I didn't have children then. So....
Anyway. We're supposed to fix things. Straighten out these little ones. Right? Well, I'm beginning to see that maybe the little ones are sent to us to help us truly understand the challenge of unconditional love. No monk in a monastery could learn this lesson better than if he raised a child.
On page 321, the author quotes God (Conversation with God series) "To accept something is not to agree with it. It is simply to embrace it, whether you agree with it or not." Later he says, "How can you heal that which you will not even hold? You must first hold something firmly in your grasp, firmly in your reality, before you can let it go."
Okay, so I have a strong willed, sensitive daughter, who challenges my tendency toward self-doubt. Well, if I accept this, I could see that this is a perfect fit for me to learn to gain more confidence. I could learn to trust my loving nature more than needing to have all the answers or to be "perfect."
I kept looking at my daughter's behaviors as problems to be solved rather than treating her as a human to be loved. When she screams at the top of her lungs because she's frustrated by the feel of certain clothing, I have a really hard time accepting it. But she is forcing me to accept it and to accept her because nothing else works. No matter how corny it sounds, LOVE is the answer.
After looking at all the behavioral manipulations I could try to use on her, I humbly have to say, "I don't know how to fix this problem of yours, but I'll be right here loving you through it. I've sought professional help. I've read books. Recently, a nurse speaking on parenting said, "You know your child better than anyone else." I'd heard that good advice before and I realized that my daughter responds better when I'm patient and don't push.
It's so hard not to try to fix her. Those time outs help me remember to stop and accept the here and now rather than fighting with her. She has a way of always winning when I'm trying to handle her. Power struggles are bad news.
I do set limits. There are consequences for her actions. I must prepare her for the real world and natural outcomes. But I don't have to yell back or nag.
It also doesn't help that she's so smart and sensitive. But that's the kind of child I prayed for. Thank you God for giving me exactly the child I need to grow on this spiritual journey. I'm trying my best, putting one foot in front of the other. And not placing that foot in my mouth. Thank you for Time Outs for Moms.