I’m a Natural Parent But. . .

Welcome to the “I’m a Natural Parent – BUT…” Carnival
This post was written for inclusion in the carnival hosted by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. During this carnival our participants have focused on the many different forms and shapes Natural Parenting can take in our community.
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I’m a natural parent, but . . .

I’m totally guilty of losing my temper – almost on a daily basis. Some days are better than others, but my anxiety and idealism combined with my beautiful, headstrong, and sensitive preschooler make for a volatile mix of potential blow-up issues throughout the day.

We are both working on this. Our most recent craft was to create “calm-down jars” (Abbey calls them “crying jars”) that we can use to focus our attention on during a time when we want to yell. Instead of yelling, we can use the jar to focus on and let our mind wander while we breathe and calm down.

I take my kids to McDonalds, or another fast food chain like Wendy’s or Taco Bell . . . maybe once a week or so. I know that’s WAY more often than you would expect of a natural mama! But it’s the truth, and I’m not ashamed. The fast food places have come a long way toward healthier options, and Abbey always eats apples (and sometimes doesn’t even touch her fries) with her chicken nuggets or cheeseburger, and never drinks soda. It’s a treat for my little girl to go, usually after gymnastics class when I know she’s hungry enough to sit through a meal out and about.

And I guess I have a huge soft spot for the Ronald McDonald House charity, since we were blessed with a Ronald McDonald House room and lots of support while Abbey was hospitalized in the NICU after her emergency intestinal surgery when she was 2 days old. And a huge soft spot for those tiny Jr. Frosties at Wendy’s, too . . .

And last but certainly not least. . . and I really really hate this one. . . 
This is the hardest one for me to overcome – probably because it’s the hardest one for me to forgive myself from and move on from. I become so flustered and embarrassed by Abbey when she acts out – in public and in private. You can read about some of my discomfort with her extreme impulsivity and brash behavior in my discussions of the “finger push assertion” and what I’ll call “the not so cherubic spectacle”

She is such a spirited child, sweet, and creative, and sensitive – and really, really, brave and headstrong. She is not in the least hindered by social convention when it comes to expressing herself, and this causes some really ugly screaming fits, temper issues, strange behaviors, and rude comments (not so much hitting anymore, so that’s good!) when we’re out and about and even in the comfort of our own home.

It also, however, causes some wonderful consequences – unfettered, unconditional love, a serious sense of justice and fairness, and a huge amount of creativity and imagination. Oh, and eagerness, always eagerness! And I’m not in the habit of crushing the GOOD in order to ward away the not-so-appropriate (and sometimes just plain mean) behaviors. Instead, I’m continuing to set limits and model graciousness, courtesy, and mindfulness. . . as much as I can, and help her through the crazy moments as well as I can.

But some days. . . I just want to crawl in a deep, dark hole and never come out because she embarrasses me so much, and makes me feel like a total incompetent parent. Thank GOD I have made some really good and true friends here in ME and in networking and writing circles (shout out to my NPN sisters!) that let me now that my feelings are valid and helping me think of ways to embrace Abbey unconditionally and understand her behavior.

But. . . some days, like I said. . . I just want to crawl into a hole and never come out, and not have to deal with how outrageous she can be.

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I'm a Natural Parent — But … Blog CarnivalThis carnival was created by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. We recognize that “natural parenting” means different things to different families, and we are dedicated to providing a safe place for all families, regardless of where they are in their parenting journeys.

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Comments

  1. We frequent McDonald’s too. ;)

    It used to be a weekly tradition, after grocery shopping Andrew and I would stop there for lunch. I’ve been so sick this pregnancy that I haven’t been able to get out but I miss our lunch dates. I’m looking forward to feeling better and getting to go again! Even if it was McDonalds, or BK, or Wendy’s. McDonalds has REALLY good cookies though. I can’t stay away!

    • :) Does McDonald’s have cookies? I’m always talked into buying the “little cookie ice cream!” (that would be the snack sized oreo McFlurry) . . . Hope you’re pregnancy is going well and that your stomach is feeling better! I couldn’t cook or eat raw foods for my first trimester with Joe. It stunk because I really DO like eating real food, but I ended up eating a lot of c^%p!

  2. Oh Amy. You are much too hard on yourself – it is culturally dictated that we feel shame for our less-than-perfectly-behaved children. It’s so engrained – it’s less a reflection on you as a mother as it is a reflection on the fact that you are a citizen of our culture. And the fact that you’re cognizant of it is awesome :) (Also, we enjoy the heck out of some frosties.)

    • Oh, I figured out the threaded commenting . . . look at me GO!

      Thanks for your support, Dionna! You are always right there when I need you to *proverbially* pat my back and say “don’t be so hard on yourself!” and I love that :)

      That’s such a good point that the fact that I feel ashamed of my child’s behavior is a reflection of our society, not a reflection of my child (or myself).

  3. I really appreciated your honesty in this post! And it seems to me you have a lot to be proud of in these “BUT” instances: you are aware of the ones you don’t like and working on changing them. I truly applaud you for that, b/c we all know how hard awareness and change can be.

    Your daughter sounds like a curious, strong willed and intelligent girl…much like her mama. :)

    • Thanks for the applause :) I am really devoted to being present and as aware of my actions as a parent. . . and devoted to honesty and contrition when I model behaviors that are inappropriate. Abbey is definitely a cool kid, and I love her to pieces!

  4. That video is too adorable! I love the idea of a calm-down jar. I also yell way more than I should (though usually at the pets, not my kid, lol). The only thing that saves me from practically living on fast food is vegetarianism! Even so, bean burritos from Taco Bell and Domino’s veggie pizza are in much heavier rotation than they probably should be at our house!

    • Oh, I totally lay it down on the dog, too! That’s my greatest stressor in the house honestly, because she (the black lab) misses Hubs so much when he’s underway and she does things just to make me mad (get my attention, even if it’s negative attention. . . ) *sigh* Abbey learned “You say, ‘Oh, crap!’ but I can’t say ‘Oh,crap’ – I say “Aw, man!’ instead” . . . from a dog-pee- and-poop-on-the-carpet incident. . . *sigh*

  5. I’ve managed to aviod McDonalds, but I think I need one of those jars… or a dozen of them.

    • Just a little note: You may want to make your dozen calm-down jars out of empty peanut butter jars. . . because one of ours broke on our tile floor. Glass mason jars weren’t a good idea. . .

  6. HUGS. Thank you for your honesty. I totally understand your feelings! We do the best we can and learn from our “mistakes” everyday with parenting.

    • We definitely do learn everyday, don’t we? Lately, I have been thinking about what Amy Phoenix from Peace4Parents had to say about patience the other day. . . that real patience is not enduring something you find irritating, but truly finding joy in the moment.

  7. This was a great post – honest and real.

    Your third point really struck me, because my son (just 19 months) is showing signs of becoming a very *spirited* little dude (just like his Mama) and I struggle with that too. I think he is utterly adorable, even when he screeches or stomps. The other night, however, my husband and I and son were in a restaurant and my son wanted to play with his ball at the table. When we took it from him, he stomped his foot and did a high-pitch screech. It was one little screech, but I caught the eye of an older man and in that instant, he gave me a fairly disapproving look. It was as though we had ruined his entire meal, even though we were in a place filled with kids – two in particular who later screamed and cried through their entire meal. But you know what? I wasn’t bothered by those screaming kids. I was relieved that everyone else didn’t have perfect kids either! I made a point to smile at the mama with the two unahppy babes and after that, I didn’t worry about Bennett. He’s a little human and is allowed to be anywhere that adults can be, spirited or not. I know I’m only at the beginning of my journey, as he’s just becoming more verbal and fiesty in the past couple months.

    It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with your little gal, being midnful every step of the way. What more can a Mama offer? Don’t beat yourself up. You’re doing great. (And I think your little gal sounds sparkly.)

    • Sparkly. That’s totally perfect for Abbey! (Did I mention she calls our town “glittery” instead of Kittery?” cracks me up every time!

      I will be honest and say that I, too, feel so much better when I see other kids screaming and crying and throwing fits in public, because I have had way too many experiences with kids that just for some reason seem like perfect little angels and sit quietly and do as they’re told. . . and I’m thinking, “ummm. . . what is wrong with my child!?”

      But nothing is wrong – like Dionna said: Seeing a child’s normal behavior as inappropriate is mostly a symptom of living in our culture. Love that little Bennett to pieces! I look back and wish that I had enjoyed Abbey’s toddlerhood more instead of fighting against it so much!

  8. I find myself feeling less than stellar too when I become reactive when my son is feeling out of whack himself. I am uncomfortable around distress because of my own inability to process those feelings effectively so it is a learning curve for me to appropriately deal with his. We are essentially learning emotional intelligence together and it is a difficult process. It means a lot of embarrassing situations but we are always growing as people too.

    • Sounds like you have a really good perspective on it all! Thinking of acting out as a sign of distress is a good way to look at it. They really do need our help. Our love.

  9. Love your post – it’s honest, heartwarming and I think a lot of mama’s can relate.

  10. It sounds like Abbey and Noah are a lot alike in their personalities. He’s so, so headstrong. But that love and compassion he has? It more than makes up for the knock down, drag out battles we have sometimes. :)

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