Child-free and partying!

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Well,  okay,  not partying exactly – more like relishing the silence,  while  sipping my coffee undisturbed.  There’s no shouting,  fighting or running around with guns, no dread as I sit down on the toilet seat without first checking for little boy splatters.  Time constraints no longer exist – we eat when we’re hungry;  we go out when we want to,  without a strict protocol of hysteria mainly consisting of “clean your teeth”,  “get your shoes on”, “hurry UP!”  Ah,  does it get much better than this?

Oh,  hang on a second.  Am I allowed to say that?  Shouldn’t I cradle any feelings of glee about being child-free close to my chest?  Isn’t it more appropriate for a mum without her kids to sit wailing in the corner,  resigning herself to a loss of all joy until they tumble into her ever-loving arms once more? Well, that would depend on who you were talking to,  I guess.

I have friends who smugly share that they never let their kids spend the night away from them,  their self-righteous “I’m a better mum than you’ll ever be” attitude oozing from every pore.  They need to be careful,  because that Mother of the Year medal around their neck is going to choke them.  Refusing to let your child stay with other people, while proudly proclaiming how you have personally put them to bed every day of their life,  does not make you a better parent.  In fact,  not allowing your child the freedom and independence achieved from staying with close family that love them more than anything  says more about you,  than your child.  There are some serious control issues going on there,  no kidding.

My kids have gone to their grandparents for the weekend.  It’s a rarity for it to be just me (and him indoors),  and my mind bobbles back and forth between enjoying the blissful peace, and feeling that the house is just too quiet.  When your kids are away,  there’s an undeniable tangible emptiness that inexplicably differs from  when the are just at school.  It’s hard to explain.  It’s a stillness,  a haven of serenity;  yet it also feels like a void,  a desolate gaping hole that can’t be filled.  One minute I experience a sensation akin to envy prodding at me, taunting the fact that it always used to be like this – getting up in the morning and having a leisurely coffee,  wondering how to fill the day’s hours,  and relishing the prospect of doing very little.  And then in an instant, it’s gone,  to be replaced with a rush of joy and gratitude at how wonderfully my life has changed for the better.

I used to have a hard time with guilt over being voluntarily separated from my children.  When we moved back here last year my family travelled before me,  and I spent seven long weeks away from them.  To say it was one of the hardest things I have ever done,  is an understatement;  it just about killed me.  Was it my choice to be apart from them? Yes,  it was. But sometimes we do things we just have to do,  and it was a necessity to factor in when moving our whole lives to another country.  People would comment “oh, I couldn’t do that”,  unable to contain their incredulity at how a mum could leave their kids for so long.  Ah,  you know;  it was nothing,  a piece of cake,  an absolute walk in the park – I flung them away from me without a backward glance.  I don’t think.  Being away from your children is like your arm being torn off,  because essentially,  not having your kids with you feels as though an integral part of who you are is suddenly missing.

Now,  it’s much easier to let my children go,  and feel no pangs. Realising that I am a HSP has helped me accept that it is okay to admit that I need time away from everyone  to recharge my batteries.  For example,  I’ve just spent the whole summer with my kids,  mostly alone, with ten full weeks of being with them 24/7.  It actually happened to be one of the of the best summers I have ever had,  but the intensity of having someone around you constantly, even if they are your own children,  is pretty tough going on the psyche of a HSP.  But in our society,  we can’t admit that,  not without criticism,  anyway.  One of my friends posted on Facebook that if people couldn’t enjoy the summer holidays,  then they didn’t deserve to have kids.  Obviously not a HSP then!

These days,  I feel a lot less guilt when letting my kids spent time with their grandparents.  And why should I feel guilt?  I am not sending them off with axe-wielding psychopaths;  they are with family who I trust with all my heart.  They have fun,  they play games,  they eat sweets and they get some time to develop as little individuals away from the parents. How can it not  be a win-win scenario?

Image courtesy of Photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Understanding Your Limitations

 

Before I start, I want to emphasise that I love my kids. Really love them. The love I feel for them is the purest and deepest emotion I have ever experienced, and will undoubtedly always remain that way. Some may not believe me after they read my post, while others, hopefully, will be able to closely relate.

I have been thinking about writing a post on the subject, when this popped up on my feed. I felt such a deep resonance with the words; it seriously could have been written by me, about me. Among other things, it broached the somewhat tricky subject of when you need time away from your kids; when they become almost enough to drive you insane, seriously. Most people are frustrated by their kids at some point, but sensitive people really struggle at times. Like the poster, I also had such a hard time when my first child was born; I used to say it was because I was selfish and set in my ways, which to some degree is probably true, but I think it is more the fact that I could never escape. He was always around; if I went somewhere, he came with me. It was suffocating.

I have spent the last two weeks in our family’s idyllic summerhouse. It’s by the beach, in the middle of a forest, and I love it here. The first week was amazing – we were here as a family, and there was the opportunity to dive into a book and lose myself for a while. This second week it has just been me and the kids. To be honest, this idyll has reverted to a living hell. The kids go to bed the same time as me, and wake up the same time. They are there every second of every day. I have seriously not had more than a minute to myself for a week. Yes, I hear the non-sensitive among you saying. That’s what parents do; that’s what you sign up for. But, to a sensitive person, it is akin to torture. I can’t think straight, I am grumpy, snappy and quite unforgivingly horrible to the kids. Things that wouldn’t normally bother me are sending my emotions into a devastating maelstrom. If nagging was an Olympic sport, I would win gold.

In reality, I don’t want to get away from my kids. What I do want to do, is get away from the noise, from the inane childish chatter, from the constant questions. I want to sit quietly for five minutes to settle my thoughts. It’s the inability to do that, even for just a few minutes, that puts enormous pressure on my whole being.

None of us feel good; that I am sure of. My eldest is very sensitive and also feels the need to get away, but can’t either. At home he escapes to his room with his iPad, but with a poor internet connection, he doesn’t even get that luxury here. So, we are constantly butting heads, with ever-increasing abandon. For the first time ever, I put them to bed last night without giving them a cuddle. I mean, the first time EVER in their lives. Their crime? Silly, childish hysterics and behaviour. How horrific, eh? But, in my defence (and I am feeling the need to defend my actions, probably because I am so aware that it is me in the wrong) it came at the pinnacle of a very stressful and frustrating day, and it was literally the straw that broke the camel’s back. I always tell them that no matter what happens, nobody should go to sleep sad or cross. I broke my promise last night with a cold and uncaring heart. I needed to get away from them, and the only way I could do that was to sleep. I must just point out that I am not Cruella de Ville; my kids didn’t wail themselves to sleep feeling abandoned by the only person they could depend on. They went to sleep as soon as their heads hit the pillows, but even so. It’s the principle that matters (and hurts in the cold light of day).

I am trying to be magnanimous about this; I could easily allow myself to slip into a quagmire of self-flagellation, as I have done numerous times in the past, but I am trying not to beat myself up about something I literally have no control over. It isn’t about me getting a grip, or needing to stop stressing. This is who I am; how I am made. When forced into a situation where there is no escape, even if that is from my children, I became claustrophobic to the point of distraction.

We’ve had a better day today. We’ve been down to the beach, and I have dipped in the refreshing Baltic. It’s swept away lots of negativity and frustration; it’s re-charged my batteries. I’ve survived to live another day.

Happy Father’s Day

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It’s Father’s Day in the UK today.

So,  once more it’s time for the perfunctory buying of cards, searching for one that doesn’t include: “You’re the greatest”, “Number one Dad”,  or “I love you”.  Because,  I am many things, but I am not fake or false.  I often wonder if he knows;  if he realises that I do things like this out of duty,  rather than love.

My dad’s not a bad person,  not at all.  But, not an easy one to like,  either.  Part of me feels sorry for him:  his mum died when he was 13,  and he had a tough adolescence,  leaving home to join the army when he was 17.  He very recently revealed that he had been on anti-depressants for nearly ten years,  over 20 years ago.  I remember him drinking a lot in those days,  and he shared with me that he was in a bad place back then.  He was horrible during those times.  We would sit in dread waiting for him to come home from the pub;  cringe as his loud voice permeated through the walls as he ranted and raved, hurling horribly abusive words at my mum.   I remember standing on the other side of the wall with hands balled so tightly,  anger cursing through my impotent 14 year old self,  as he swore and raged.  During those years,   I would ask my mum repeatedly in exasperation why she didn’t just leave him, why she stayed with someone who had a tongue so viciously cruel (both under the influence and sober),  yet she never had an answer.

I wasn’t allowed to have friends home. If,  by some chance,  they were there when he turned up,  he had the ability to cause a scene without saying a word.  He would enter the room,  his face contorted with fury,  snatch up the newspaper with dramatic force,  and slam the door for good measure. There was never any need for words,  for his hostility stabbed deeper than anything he could say. It embarrassed and humiliated me;  made my insides shrivel to the size of a pea.  Life with him was like teetering on egg-shells.

Some days,  he was happy.  He would sing,  grab us in an arm-lock,  or give us “stubble-burn”. I loved those brief moments,  when we’d laugh as a family,  just for a second.  But he was unpredictable;  his euphoric mood could be wiped out in seconds,  often by something inconsequential or irrelevant we’d say,  or do.  The memory of laughter fading as quickly as it came.

For a long time,  I blamed my dad for everything that was wrong with me.  If only he’d told me he loved me, I wouldn’t have needed to wade through a ton of selfish,  useless boyfriends,  begging to be loved. If he’d told me I was beautiful,  perhaps I might believe it was true, instead of having a fragile, easily shattered self-esteem. Had he not been so critical, then maybe I would go a little easier on myself,  be happy with my achievements, rather than always feeling inadequate. With age has come the realisation that it is not his fault, not really.  My lack of self-esteem might have been boosted by an empathic,  observant parent,  but not necessarily so.  My dad is the product of his own upbringing. He is a man simply trying to deal with the cards he has been dealt.  He is clueless. I feel no anger towards him now;  there’s no wallowing in the past.  I think it unfair to apportion blame;  how can you hold someone accountable when they are totally unaware of their actions?  And he is blissfully unaware of the effect he had on me.

There’s power in letting go. There’s also power in accepting everything that has happened, and laying it quietly away in a box. It’s a choice,  simple as that.  I could have chosen to be bitter and hateful about him for the rest of my life,  or I could take the mistakes he made,  and ensure that they are never repeated with my children.  Because of him,  I will never underestimate the crushing power of the spoken word,  or how easily a sensitive soul can be trampled into the dirt by a casually flung criticism.  Because of him,  I am so aware of the influence I have as parent,  and how to hold that gift of authority in my hand,  like a fragile butterfly.

Despite that,  I am aware of the envy I have for people with parents who are everything to them; jealous of the close,  protective bond between father and daughter.  If I am honest,  I could simply cut all ties,  without feeling any regret or remorse.  I once read that if someone doesn’t enhance or contribute to your life in any way at all,  you should cut them free.  My dad doesn’t bring anything into my life,  other than a feeling of inadequacy.  Only I can’t do that;  I can’t just eject him from my life.  He would be confused and sad;  and despite everything,  I wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings,  even though he’d trampled on mine over and over again.  And,  because I know he loves me;  I just don’t love him the same way.

So,  I continue to act out the dutiful daughter routine;  to keep up the illusion that our relationship isn’t strained,  that it wasn’t permanently damaged all those years ago.  Some would undoubtedly say that it’s not too late,  to make amends now,  before it is too late.  But the stark truth is that I don’t want to.  Will I one day live to regret it?  Possibly.  I just think some things deteriorate so far that there isn’t any way back;  and for me,  I don’t even need there to be a way back.

 

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

None of us are perfect

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Being a mum. Tough, eh?

It’s a multi-faceted role that is littered with mistakes, worry, regret, irritation, and pretty much every other emotion under the sun.

It’s a job I never feel accomplished at, rarely feel satisfied by my efforts (and if I do, it is always very short-lived), and I always have a pervading sense of not quite getting it right, however hard I try.

Let’s give an example of what I mean: I live in absolute dread of forgetting something important to do with my kids and school. Like not remembering they are going swimming, not packing school books or forgetting homework needs doing, having the wrong food in a packed lunch for a school trip, or a whole host of other things I could get wrong. This is a lot about me. I do worry that by forgetting something, my kids are going to get into trouble, or teased, or miss out. But I have to be honest and say that a lot of it is about how it reflects on my parental abilities. If you forget their PE kit, you are a crap mum. Right?

A prime example of this happened last week. My big boy told me that his class would start having PE outside, and he needed outdoor  trainers. So, I got them ready for him. I panicked for a fair bit beforehand, mind you, because he can’t tie his laces, and all he has for outdoor trainers are a pair with laces. So, I spent ages fixing them just right, so that he could put them on without undoing them, yet they would stay tight enough that they didn’t fall off when he ran. I put more thought into it than scientists did researching the atom. But what I forgot to give any attention to was packing tracksuit bottoms or a hoodie (he went with his usual shorts and tee shirt), and as a result, he was so cold he had to put his clothes back on, and then wasn’t allowed to participate; instead, he had to walk around the football pitch. He cried, he told me; he said it felt horrible to be secluded like that. And yes, my heart just about broke; I’d let him down and I was a crap mum. Self-flagellation a-plenty that night, I can tell you.

I know, I know. I know that he will survive, may even have taught him some lesson (pack your own things for school, perhaps?), but I felt like the worse mum in the world. He’s a sensitive boy, and whereas most kids would be able to shrug it off, I think he feels embarrassment and humiliation more keenly, and it lingers for longer. And what would his teachers think? Would they talk privately about the mum that sent her child to school with shorts and a tee shirt? Didn’t she realise it was cold? Didn’t she care? Would they scoff, discussing how some parents were just rubbish? Maybe. But they couldn’t say any worse than I felt myself.

So, imagine my absolute delight, when I discovered that another mum – one I don’t know very well, but have always regarded as clued-up, and with it – sent her six year old to school with rain trousers that were too small for him. My youngest came home and told me that his friend had been crying because they were too short. I asked how short. He said they were half way up his leg. And my reaction? I laughed. I laughed a secret little chortle, riddled with glee, but also relief: I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only mum that got it wrong sometimes. I didn’t waste one moment imagining how she (and her child) felt. This is kind of odd behaviour for the highly sensitive, empathic women I usually am. But, nope.  I was too busy smiling to myself, revelling in the relief that it wasn’t me that went to bed that night with thoughts of failing my kids reverberating around my head.

I think a lesson can be learned from that. We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. No mum, especially one that has a busy life, is going to get it right 100% of the time. And if they did, really, what does that teach children? I would imagine that it would set them up for a fall; that’s what. A less-than-perfect mum makes them realise that the world is less-than-perfect; it allows them to face disappointment, and to deal with it. Not a lesson I would ever deliberately place on my children’s shoulders; yet, surely, an invaluable one, none-the-less?

 

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

I suck at being a mum..

Excuse the pity party,  but sometimes,  I do.

I have way more good parenting days than bad,  but when the bad ones come,  they seem to overshadow everything.  When I say bad,  I mean relative to me.  I know my bad days won’t ever match up to what some people have to deal with.  I know that.  But I have only one life,  and can only report on how it feels to be me.

My bad days don’t last long.  Tomorrow,  I will wake up a new person.  I am lucky that way. Nothing lingers for long. This morning didn’t start off particularly bad,  but my eldest son was having a pretty rough day,  and my reasonably good mood dissipated as his angry attitude seeped into my consciousness.  My son,  like me,  is highly sensitive.  I feel what he feels;  and I am sure it is vice versa. He is the most beautiful and difficult child all rolled up in one unique, challenging package.  I love him more than life itself;  yet his being almost over-powers me at times.

He provokes and annoys everyone in the house;  then he gets hurt when we are cross with him. He calls us mean names;  then cries if we ever dare to say something he takes personally (which is pretty much everything). This morning, he told me to “shut my big fat mouth”,   which is just appalling. I know that.  Yet, strict punishments don’t work.  What is so much more effective is talking to him,  and explaining gently where he as gone wrong.  But, you don’t need me to tell you that being spoken to like that is not exactly conducive to having a calm conversation. Especially when you,  yourself, are sensitive.

Most of the time I am able to be the adult.  I step away from an escalating situation before it worsens. But, there have been times during the last couple of days where I have caught myself talking to him in the same hysterical voice he is using towards me. It’s hard being a person with such powerful emotions, who is also a mum. There is a constant tug of war between who I am, and who I want my children to see.  I sometimes feel like an overstuffed cushion,   with all of my emotions and feelings too big for the space they are held in. A couple of hard punches, and that cushion just bursts all over the place;  leaving the skin saggy and deflated,  and the contents scattered.

I know that something has to give sometimes. I do want them to realise that we are all human; all falling foul to life,  feelings,   and moods at times. But, they need a calm mum more than anything. And when I fail at that,  even just for a second,  it scrapes at my soul,  leaving it full of tiny wounds.

It’s days like this when I want to give up.  To run far,  far away.  When I feel I am doing more damage to my kids being around them,  than if I wasn’t here.  When I feel that I am just not cut out for this;  this is not what I signed up for.  This is not where I want to be.

Mummy guilt prickles at my skin.  Why can’t I be the perfect mum?  Why can’t I stay calm? These are questions I ask myself over and over.  On days like this, I see only the black;  I am negative, useless,  worthless.  My eldest is highly sensitive;  so am I.  This makes me understand him more than he understands himself,  but it also causes him more pain when I am unable to stay 100% in control of the situation.

For the first time ever,  last week,  I found myself telling my partner that I wished we had two children like my youngest. The love I have for my kids is equal;  it is cut down the middle with immaculate precision. Yet, it is different. The love I have for each one is different.  It’s also changeable;  one day big boy is my favourite,  while little boy does my head in.  But we can’t escape the fact that our youngest is easier.  So much easier.  He brings with him a feeling of calmness,  which soothes my frazzled highly sensitive self.  My eldest invariably brings conflict and irritation, which scours my highly sensitive self until it is red raw.  Nothing is fun when it is hard work;  and being around my eldest is damn hard work at times.

Ah.  A deep sigh.

The one thing I like best about being me,  is my resilience.  I mentioned on another post once that I thought this was a mum thing;  it makes us able to continue along our motherhood journey.  I know that tomorrow everything bad about today will be forgotten;  that my son’s smile will melt away any negative feelings.  I am fond of telling my kids that “tomorrow is a new day”, so much so,  that they quote it back to me.

I know that I am feeling down now;  but I also know it won’t last.

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Smacking: Isn’t it time we evolved?

Let’s set the scene: you are the boss, and have several employees. One of those employees is repeatedly late. It irritates the life out of you, but despite several warnings, it doesn’t stop. One day, you just snap. Sick and tired of telling them that they need to get to work on time, but it falling on deaf ears, you lose it. You hit them. Instead of feeling remorse, you are proud of your actions, telling yourself (and anyone that will listen) that hitting your employees is the only way to instill, and achieve, respect.

Sound ridiculous? Yes, of course it does. It is not acceptable to behave in this manner, and what’s more; it’s illegal. However, in many households, this is exactly the scene being played out. For whatever reason, many parents believe that it is perfectly rational to smack their children; to exert their force, power and strength in a bid to get them to toe the line. Whichever way it’s dressed up, the bottom line is that parents who smack are hurting, both physically and mentally, the people they are entrusted to protect. How is inflicting pain on someone smaller, one that has absolutely no means to defend themselves, ever right or acceptable? And, in the playground, isn’t that referred to as bullying?

Many parents justify this unacceptable behaviour by proudly proclaiming that they were smacked, and it never did them any harm. Although it is true that parents who smack are more likely to have been smacked themselves, they are not repeating the actions of their own parents because they feel it is effective; instead, they are acting out repressed feelings, born from physical and psychological pain, repeating a pattern that was, in some cases, nothing short of traumatic. Although some shrug off their own experiences of physical punishment as nothing, there are many more accounts of how horrific it felt to be smacked as a child. For those parents who don’t consider the discipline they administer as being brutal; here’s an idea: sit down with your child and ask them how they feel about it, and you may be surprised by what you hear. Some parents even go so far as to say that their child is well-behaved because they are smacked. Here’s a newsflash: smacked children are not respectful; they are fearful. Hardly the same thing.

These days, child-psychology experts believe that smacking should be made illegal. Yet, many parents vehemently defend their right to discipline their child any way they see fit. But when this right allows them to hurt a defenceless child, surely we, as a society, need to step in? It’s a very, very grey area: one person’s discipline, is another person’s unnecessary force. How can it be regulated and controlled if everyone’s opinion of what appropriate discipline is, differs so much? The simple answer is that you can’t. Parents often smack when they are angry; unleashing their own frustrations on a child through physical discipline. If you are enraged, how can you safely and effectively punish your child? What’s to stop you from going that little bit too far one day, and seriously hurting them? The scary answer is: nothing.

Many countries have outlawed smacking; Sweden, for example, banned corporal punishment in 1979. Its inhabitants (including children) are generally well-behaved, respectful and polite individuals. They certainly haven’t suffered any obvious ill-effects of getting rid of ineffective, antiquated punishments. The UK and US are a long way behind: some parents in these countries wrongly consider that the child is their property; that they can do whatever they like with them. In the US, in particular, religious beliefs weigh heavily upon their decision to smack, with people acting upon ancient biblical sentiments, which proclaim that you must rule your child with an iron rod to achieve respect and good behaviour. Sadly, such deep-set conditioning is hard to eradicate.

Child behavioural experts categorically state that smacking is not a successful form of discipline, in fact, quite the contrary: smacking your child causes them to lose trust in you, and reduces effective communication. So many parents are totally misguided, believing that smacking instills respect, keeping children on the straight and narrow. However, research points to the opposite being true: children who are routinely smacked have serious issues with people in authority, both in childhood and as an adult. Medical professionals have also noted that children that are smacked are much more likely to be aggressive, which, when you think about it, is perfectly logical. Like breeds like. Additionally, children under two are totally unable to correlate the punishment with the crime, so they will be confused and scared if smacked.

On the surface, a smacked child may appear respectful and obedient; however, underneath, resentment bubbles. Repressed emotions caused by smacking can reap untold psychological harm, such as low self-esteem, depression and anti-social behaviour; and in the long run, damages the relationship you have with your child. Even more worrying, corporal punishment can prove detrimental to physiological health: extensive research shows that continued smacking irreversibly alters the brains of children, which can result in impaired speech and memory, and muscle control.

As a parent, it is our job to guide our children, not force them into submission. As a parent, don’t we cringe when our children fall over and injure themselves; or flinch at the thought of the playground bully hurting them? Of course we do. However, many still think it is perfectly acceptable to be the one inflicting pain, shame and embarrassment on their children.

So, I have a question for parents who smack: do you ever tell your children that it is wrong to hurt someone else (a sibling, for example)? If you do, then think of the message you are sending. It’s warped and damaging. It’s also hypocritical. Step up to the mark. Do your job properly and guide your child along their way, giving them the opportunity to develop into the well-adjusted, grounded adult you’d like them to be. Be forgiving of their mistakes, but gently show them where they could have done things differently. Be a role model, not an aggressor. And remember, your child is not you; they are their own person, with individual thoughts and beliefs.

For those parents who are in denial, unwilling to acknowledge the negative effects of physical punishment, you may be right; perhaps your child will come out unscathed and undamaged.

But, seriously. Do you really want to take that risk?

Mummy Guilt….

Like most mums (I am presuming), I suffer with a horrible affliction referred to as “mummy guilt”. When it comes, it settles like a heavy weight on my chest, causing my heart to ache. It makes me sit for hours contemplating where I could have done things differently; bludgeoning myself with my faults. If only I’d been a little less shouty, a little more reasonable. If only I could be a better mum. 

Today, I reacted in a way that caused my nine-year-old to be terrified of me. And yes, I mean terrified. My two boys are going through a phase where they are constantly fighting, often physical. They would argue black was white until the cows came home if we let them. The eldest tries to get the better of his six-year-old brother (which older sibling doesn’t?), and this morning, during an argument, he’d gone to get a knife and brandished it. Now, let me please stop and say that he doesn’t have any behavioural issues, is a relatively normal boy, but he is highly sensitive and sometimes finds it difficult to express irritation or anger appropriately. I know hand on heart that he would never use it, would never hurt his brother (or anyone else)and have a feeling that it involves one-up-man-ship more than anything. 

So, the day progresses with very little let-up in the bickering, and while upstairs, I hear them starting to fight physically. My youngest runs up screaming, saying his brother has a knife, that’s scared. I kind of lost it. I flew down the stairs and got hold of him so he couldn’t run away, took a knife from the shelf, and told him (okay….shouted) in no uncertain terms that YOU…DO…NOT….MESS….WITH….KNIVES…EVER! He started to cry, and I have never seen him look so scared. And it’s the look in his eyes that, nearly ten hours later, I can’t shake from my mind. 

Now, don’t get me wrong; I did not brandish the knife. I did not stick it near his face, and neither did I make any hint that I would use it on him (of course I didn’t). I just held it, and him (so he couldn’t escape). I am not justifying my actions, just explaining. I wanted him to know how scary it is when someone pulls a knife. I wanted him to know how much he was frightening his brother. And it worked.

During the first five minutes after, I felt almost victorious; thoughts of “he won’t do that again in a hurry” reverberated around my head. Then the pain that is mummy guilt kicked in. I think my problem is that I believe as parents, we should do everything in our power to protect our children. I feel very little guilt when they are punished fairly for any inappropriate actions. But when it goes as far as to literally terrify them, what then? Where do we draw the line at teaching our children a lesson? Is it okay to scare the life out of them so that they won’t repeat it? Or, as parents, should we behave like adults and calmly explain why it is not okay to get a knife? Well, a bit of both, I guess. And I suppose we can’t also discount the fact that I was trying to protect one of my children.

As I write this, I contemplate whether it will ever get a public viewing. This is really close to home for me, and very private. Telling the world of my failings (especially as a sensitive person), is hard. I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want people to think I am a horrible mum. Because, I tell you, you couldn’t say any worse than what I am already feeling.  I am sorry for getting cross (because had I stayed calm; I would have been able to deal with it more effectively, and consequently, wouldn’t feel like this), and I am sorry that I frightened my little boy. And although I don’t know you, I worry that you will think badly of me. But I find writing a release, and if one person can read this and identify, then hopefully, they won’t feel so alone (because that’s just how I am feeling right now).

In more lucid moments, I am able to acknowledge that I am a good mum; although, only in my own brain. Never out loud, or in public. Ever. I comfort my kids when they are sad or hurt; I stand up for them, and fight their corner; I don’t smack them or use any physical punishment; I try to guide them through life’s difficulties; and I would fall under a bus for them. I love them more than life itself. They ARE my life. But sometimes; I wonder if that is enough.

Since it happened, I have sat with him and talked it through calmly, explaining why I reacted the way I did. He gets it. I think. I told him that I was so sorry for scaring him, but that I was frightened he was going to do something silly; that I wanted him to realise how dangerous it was to hold a knife. I get how hypocritical my actions might seem, that I did the wrong thing, for the right reasons. He told me that he thought I was going to kill him. I can’t tell you how that makes me feel. I am not sure if he really did think that, but whatever, the pain is indescribable, and it torments me. I abhor violence. I try to teach my kids that it is not acceptable to hurt anyone else; yet he thought I was going to hurt him. Oh, man.

As mums, are we supposed to feel this bad? I am pretty sure my mum never felt any guilt. Or maybe she did, but just hid it well. It seems a fairly new phenomenon. Is it because we are more aware of how we can influence our children with our own behaviour? I don’t know. Are we supposed to second guess every decision or action we make? Are we supposed to become suffocated by the weight of guilt, crushed by insecurity over our actions? Sometimes I can’t breathe with the heaviness of all this. I worry about how my kids will turn out: will they be angry and bitter, or will they be happy and content? And more selfishly: will they still love me as much as they do now? I am so, so aware of the power we have over our children. How we can mould and manipulate them without even realising; how our actions can have deep-reaching, devastating consequences for them. Motherhood is a very hard burden to bear at times.

When I’ve got my rational head on, I am able to see that all of this is part and parcel of being a parent. It comes with the territory, and is to be expected. I once read an article that said that parents who second-guess themselves were usually doing much better than those that were  blasé, or confident in their abilities. Who knows? I do know that even women who have raised great kids had doubts when their children were small. My partner’s mum told me once that she never knew if she was doing the right thing, she just tried to do the best she could. She did very well with her two. Another mum once told me that she used to cry most nights when her kids had gone to bed, feeling guilty and wondering if she had been too harsh. Her adult son tells a completely different version of his childhood: he says he always felt loved and protected. He shares a deep, powerful love for his mum, and this is obvious to anyone who knows them. This is what gives me a glimmer of hope. This is what gives me inspiration when I am feeling demoralised and useless. You can feel like you are messing it up, but in reality, you are actually doing a fairly reasonable job. 

I just wish I could take that moment back; the moment that has replayed in my mind over, and over, and over again today. That moment when I utterly terrified my own child. If only I could do that.

But, I can’t. So, I need to do the next-best thing, and drag myself out of this guilt stupor; moving forward in the best way I can. Tomorrow is another day…..