My daughter sent me a vine a few weeks ago of a girl who intentionally mispronounces Merry Christmas. Maybe some of you have seen it, it goes like this, “Happy Christmas, it's chrismun, merry crisis, merry Chrysler. ” It made me laugh really hard, but I have a kooky sense of humor like that. The part that really gets me it is the “Merry Crisis.” Oh boy, does that hit home! Merry Crisis is where it is at so often in the Farley house. It seems like everything that could go wrong with Doug and I’s parenting does at Christmas time. Deck the halls with boughs of holly and don’t forget to add several cups of guilt along with a few heaping tablespoons of shame. That adds up to a whole casserole full of embarrassment and disappointment. Merry CRISIS everyone!
Here’s the thing, the stress of parenting doesn’t go away. There is always going to be some kind of crisis going on. When kids are little it may seem like there is always some kind of flu cloud hovering over your house. Throwing up is never convenient… Disappointment seems to be around every corner with teenagers. It’s hard to not just count on it always showing up. But here’s the good news, even though we can’t eliminate the stress, we can change the way we see it and the way we show up to it.
It can be so easy in the midst of a parenting crisis to talk to yourself in a harsh way. “Why am I such a terrible mom/dad?” “It’s my fault that my son fails math class because I can never help him with his homework.” “I never can make it to my daughter’s soccer games and our relationship is crap because of it.” It’s so easy to beat ourselves up every day about our lack of parenting skills. Our self-talk determines how our day, week and life goes. So more important than anything else we need to learn to talk to ourselves kindly.
Kristin Neff defines self-compassion as having three components.
First, to be self-compassionate you need to have self-kindness. Being gentle and kind to yourself rather than harsh and critical. Treating yourself as you would a good friend.
Second, it requires recognizing our common humanity. I feel like you feel. I may have had different experiences but I know what it feels like to be disappointed, angry, or embarrassed. It can be easy to feel isolated and alienated in our suffering and that’s why it’s important to know that we all feel those yucky feelings. In the words of Troy Bolton from High School Musical “We’re all in this together!”
Third, it requires mindfulness. Learning to hold our experiences in balanced awareness without judgement rather than ignoring the pain or exaggerating it. And remembering that this pain will go away eventually, and we will make it through this.
There are many studies that have proven that self-compassionate parents tend to have lower levels of stress and depression than parents who do not practice self-compassion. The most important thing to remember when practicing self-compassion is that when we as parents are kinder and gentler to ourselves, our kids naturally become kinder and gentler to themselves. And isn’t that what this whole parenting thing is about?
A great way to start is by taking a self-compassion break. What does this look like?
First, recognize and accept the moment of suffering with a statement like, “this is really hard” or “this hurts.”
Next acknowledge that other parents have felt just like you before, and that they made it through this and you will make it through too. Maybe you can even picture someone in your life, a parent, grandparent, teacher or friend that you feel love and support from. Imagine them being with you and what they would say to you about this hard moment.
And last, offer yourself kindness by saying something like “May I give myself the compassion I need as I try to care for my baby.” or “may I allow myself the time and kindness I need to understand my teenager.”
Merry Christmas everyone. Candace and I are so grateful for you. Thanks for making it such an amazing year! Here’s to 2019, the year we all become self-compassionate parents.