Crisis Parenting: Lessons in Forgiveness & Permission
Updated: May 29, 2020
Parenting during a pandemic has been hard, but I’ve learned several life lessons during this time that transcends Crisis Parenting and goes straight into the Parenting Hall of Fame. See, I work full-time as an “essential worker” so the work never really slowed down for me. I work for a non-profit as a supervisor AND I have my private practice as a therapist. If you’ve been paying attention to the news at all, you’ll know that mental health is becoming an integral part of managing COVID-19. Anxiety is through the roof! There are more people looking for services than ever before! As such, my little side hustle is quickly demanding more and more of my attention.
Then, to top it off, I write! I write parenting articles, I write parenting books, and I write fiction. Writing demands time and attention, something I have little of right now. These things aren’t new to me, just more demanding and requiring more time.
What is new to me is caring for my 3-year-old, full-time, while juggling all of this. What is also new to me is trying to teach my 7-year-old social studies, science, grammar, reading, math, and so on. What was also new to me is the pressure that I was putting on myself to be the perfect housekeeper. I’m home all day, right? I should be able to juggle all of this, do laundry, clean dishes, and just keep the house organized every day (despite the fact that there are 2 mini tornadoes that are home all day too now). It can’t be that hard, right?
What I just described is the reality of most parents right now. Some of us have it a little easier because our partners are home too, so they’re helping to carry that load (hopefully). Some of us have it a little harder because we are juggling everything on our own with no one to help us pick up a ball when it drops.
Let me tell you a story...
Several weeks ago, I was in a Zoom meeting for work. As I’m in this meeting, my 3-year-old busts in through the door of my office butt naked! That’s right, completely naked. Oh, he had clothes on 5 minutes prior, but over the course of being home for 3 months, I’ve come to believe that he’s adopting the Nudist way of life. So, not only is he naked, but he is displaying an erection that has him very upset. If you’ve never raised boys, you might find this fact interesting. Boys, starting when they are about 2 years old, start having erections quite frequently. And they usually HATE IT! It’s uncomfortable for them (and equally uncomfortable for mothers, might I add).
So, there I am, in a meeting, and my son is completely naked, with an erection, on camera, yelling, “Mommy!My peepee won’t listen to me!” I’ve never walked out of a meeting before, but there’s a first time for everything. I ‘virtually’ ran out of that meeting, shutting off the camera and slapping the laptop shut faster than you can blink. True story, and I have A LOT more of them!
Are you laughing yet? Hopefully, this story got you to smile at the very least.
So, what’s the point? What parenting technique am I trying to teach you with all of this? Well, it’s called forgiveness. It’s called permission.
No matter where you are at in your parenting journey, you need to learn how to forgive yourself. You are going to make mistakes. You are going to be too harsh sometimes and not nearly harsh enough other times. You are going to say the wrong things, react the wrong way, execute a disciplinary technique poorly, and generally just screw it up. Why? Because you’re human, and none of us get it right all the time.
Take me for example… I’m a bona fide parenting expert. I didn’t give myself that title. I earned it through years of study in psychology, child development, and family dynamics. I’ve practiced as an expert for a decade! I’ve worked with thousands of children and their families, tackling a multitude of problems. I’ve worked with dozens of religions, every socio-economic status (from homeless families to the child actors living in Beverly Hills), and cultures. Despite ALL of that… guess what?
I still get it wrong sometimes.
Walk into my house right now, and you’ll see a sink filled with dirty dishes, a sewing machine with fabrics and sewing supplies all over the dining room table, toys scattered on the floor of the family room, my bed-sheets all rumbled and disheveled, and a basket filled with clothes needing to be folded. I could describe more, but I hope you get the picture. None of us are perfect. None of us have it all figured out; our sh*t all put together. We all have weaknesses, and those weaknesses will get the best of us sometimes. You need to forgive yourself for that. And you need to give yourself permission to be human.
As much as you want to be perfect in every way, you need to give yourself permission to fail. I’m a big believer that mistakes are learning opportunities. I may not like when they happen, but I’m grateful for them. My dad used to tell me:
“I would rather you make 100 different mistakes in a day than just 2 mistakes and they be the same.Because at least if you’ve made 100 different mistakes and learned from them, you’ve grown in 100 different ways.But if you make just 2 mistakes, and they are the same, then you didn’t learn anything.You haven’t grown.”
Sure, we all want to get it right every time, to be perfect. But perfection isn’t reality. It’s not even an option! So, steer into the skid. Accept that you will make mistakes. Give yourself permission to be imperfect… just learn from it.
Don’t be afraid to fail, to screw up occasionally. Be afraid of stagnation, of being stuck in the same place and never evolving into a better version of yourself. Don’t keep making the same parenting mistake again and again… try something different. Learn from it. Embrace imperfection. Give yourself permission for it, and then grow. Grow 100 different ways every day. Evolve 100 different times and watch yourself come closer to your parenting goals. Watch yourself become the best parent you can be.