By Jake Cunningham, parent
Sometimes no matter how hard I try, I just can’t find the emotional room to comfort my 2-year-old son, Jack. I try, as we all do, to be the best parent I can be based on the principles of Attachment Parenting (AP), but sometimes I just can’t cope when I know Jack needs me, but I can’t be there for him psychologically. I can try and comfort him, but he knows I’m not really “with him”. That can make him even more distressed, which makes me more resentful about the tantrum he’s having! I feel like sometimes we feed off each others’ deeper negative vibe. Even if I’m smiling, he knows I’m not happy—he just does. Little people are so attuned to our emotions.
It’s hard to be honest about this lack of connection I sometimes feel, but I wanted to try and acknowledge it for Jack’s sake, and I think that brings us both some relief. I have to accept that it’s part of our human condition to be emotional wrecks sometimes. Reading Kelly Bartlett’s article, “What Happens When We ‘Lose It’,” gave me the impetus I needed to do my homework on understanding this dynamic between me and my son and how to best deal with it. The article provides a good snapshot of what is happening mentally that is affecting the situation emotionally.
Even just admitting these feelings to myself has actually been a huge help. I felt a huge sense of relief when I said to myself, “Jack is right, you aren’t coping with this situation.” It just got rid off my defensiveness and defused the emotions.
Of course, then I started to worry that there might be something seriously wrong with me! Do other mothers cope this badly sometimes? So I talked to my friend, Renee, and was even more relieved to find that she knew exactly what I was talking about. We had a really good long talk about it all, and we both felt such a burden lift. Talking it through connected us with each other at a deeper level, but the best thing was that we felt more connected as parents being able to voice our guilt and frustration. It is without a doubt the best thing I’ve done in a long time. I feel like I can be a better parent as a result of being more accepting of the human condition.
Renee and I resolved to get together at least once a month just to talk through our issues and share any tools we’ve found to help deal with them. This is such a productive result because it makes me actively seek out advice and support in the form of articles, counselling information and talking to other parents, which is something I haven’t done very much before now.
I recently read The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them by Elaine N. Aron, PhD. All children, without a doubt, are sensitive and vulnerable in our often insensitive world, and the resources and understanding in Aron’s book were invaluable to me in communicating better with Jack and being able to soothe him more affectionately.
I still have bad days with Jack where we might as well be from different planets and when we just don’t click, but my talks with Renee, along with my study, mean that I don’t get caught up in the negativity. So both Jack and I are able to move on more quickly and get back to our wonderful, loving, mother-son relationship, and I cherish that with every bone in my body.