There is a big push in the blogosphere, as well as on social media, for parents to be more real. We are encouraged to post the nitty gritty of parenthood instead of just sunshine and roses because the former is more honest. The general idea is that by only posting the positive aspects of our daily lives that we are somehow setting up unrealistic expectations and therefore causing other parents to feel even worse about their own imperfect families.
I understand the sentiment, and in the context of talking with friends about issues they may be having with their kids or asking for advice about issues I may be having with mine I completely agree that full disclosure is important. But I’m not going to share it here. Or on Facebook. If you want to I don’t judge you for it, especially if it helps and you feel better after doing so. But for me, it is not helpful AT ALL. When I spend time complaining about aspects of my family life (commonly referred to as venting) without looking for ways that I can either change the situation or change my perspective about the situation it sets me up for a downward spiral. Soon I will only be able to see the problems; none of the good things seem to matter because I am too focused on the bad.
I also think it’s far too easy, under the guise of venting, to turn a blind eye to my own role in whatever is happening. In the early, unhappy days of my marriage I spent a lot of time complaining about my husband. In my mind I vilified him and martyred myself. It wasn’t until I stopped complaining and started looking for solutions that things changed. I didn’t take on all the blame myself but I also stopped laying it all on him. I started communicating my frustrations in productive ways and asking him to do the same. It changed our relationship in such a profound way that it’s difficult at times to even remember the way things used to be.
Since this epiphany I have tried to extend this realization to all relationships, but especially to my relationship with my children. It’s easy to take things personally; we are repeatedly told that when our kids act out that they are trying us, asking us to set limits, seeing how far they can push us, etc. We are rarely told to look at their motivations as separate from us. How ridiculous.
This does not mean that their moods and actions don’t impact me or that I have no right to respond or have my own feelings in return. It simply means that I try, usually after my initial, though increasingly brief knee-jerk defensive reaction, to see things from their perspective; to look for solutions instead of laying blame on either of us. When I say that I look for my role in things it is not because I’m looking for a stick to beat myself up with. It’s because I’m looking for things I can do to make things easier and better for all of us, including myself.
So, I’m sorry if I sometimes come across as a bit of a Pollyanna when it comes to my family. We do have our moments and I do try to share them but usually from the perspective of problem solving, not complaining. And honestly, these moments are rare and brief. They didn’t used to be. They used to happen daily, sometimes multiple times per day. I don’t know if this changed simply because we changed our approach or if we’re just lucky. But either way, I’m not complaining. 🙂