As the holidays came and went, so did the many social gatherings. I used to be able to keep up with all of that, but now as a mom (and okay… I’m no spring chicken anymore!), I really just… can’t. Plain and simple. More than the physical fatigue that I feel, it’s the emotional drain on myself and on the girls. Who else will deal with them through their highs and their lows but me? We moms tend to be the last line of defense, are we not?!
It was during the holidays when this happened the most, hence the reference to the season (and all its stresses). Because of the constant change in schedules, the festivities and all the holiday activities, the kids were constantly overtired. Their whole schedule was disrupted and there was hardly any part of their routine that was strictly followed. In fact, pretty much all sorts of rules are broken or bent. And it brought out all sorts of characters and personalities in my usually manageable set of sisters, and in myself too. I’ve come to the conclusion that the holidays are a recipe for tantrums, meltdowns, and just about any or all kinds of emotional stress. That goes for both the parent and for the child.
And it was in this season when I found myself resorting to the phrase “It’s okay“, more than I would have liked to (and more than I should have). It was an absent-minded, please-give-me-some-peace response to just about every other whine, defiant response, cry or tussle that came my way.
“Mama she’s not sharing! She’s not giving me a turn!” — It’s okay, it’s okay.
“Mama she grabbed!” — It’s okay, no big deal.
“But Mama she ate chocolate and didn’t eat dinner!” — It’s okay we’ll wash it down with water.
“But Mama, I don‘t LIKE this dress!” — It’s okay. It’s fine.
“Ouchie Mama I hurt my toe!” — It’s okay. Stop crying you’re fine.
Saying “it’s okay”, — I felt (and still do feel) — was really a cop-out for handling the situation and teaching my children how to deal with conflict and their own feelings. I was busy. I was tired; I was overtired. I was preoccupied with other things. I just wanted the crying to stop! And I really just wanted some semblance of peace. But that doesn’t make the standard “it’s okay” response right.
Saying “it’s okay” when a child is hurting (physically or otherwise), speaking their mind or calling out a bad behavior will send them mixed signals. “Why is it okay that other people are allowed to grab but we’re not?” “How can it be okay? I feel hurt!” It’s just not the appropriate response, no matter how I’m feeling as a person.
And I’ve noticed it resonates a lot in our society and our culture too. Collectively we seem to be a people who are conflict-avoidant. We seek harmony and happiness, particularly in social gatherings when all is supposed to go pleasantly. It’s definitely an eyesore (or an ear-sore) to have a whiny, child crying and the easiest route would be to give them what they want or to shush them out so that things can move forward as planned.
But children — my children — also don’t really care about agendas, or schedules. They feel how they feel when they feel it. And as a parent it’s my responsibility to teach my children the right values. They will first learn to acknowledge how they feel from me. They will learn that it’s okay to not be okay, and that it’s also important to express it. There is a right time and place to correct their behavior too, and it may not be at that time when all emotions are running high (what Coach Pia calls finding the teaching moment).
I remember, in a session with Coach Pia, she mentioned that as parents we have a greater responsibility towards our children. Therefore, if it means having to set aside our own feelings first to ensure their well-being (to guide them correctly and address their own concerns), then it must be done. We are adults after all, we can wait. They are children. They don’t have the capacity yet to set their own feelings aside. And at a young age, they shouldn’t have to.
In fact, it’s actually “okay” to say — it’s not okay. “I’m not okay mom”, is one way Sam gets my attention because she needs to talk to me about something. She didn’t like how she was treated by a playmate. She didn’t feel good about doing something I asked her to do. She’s tired, hungry, sleepy, or feeling ill. She has every right to not be okay, and by acknowledging it I can help her process it. I want her to be aware and to know how to handle herself or what to do the next time that happens. With Jamie, I realized it takes a while for her to come to terms with things. So sometimes, I let her cry it out, or sulk. I give her the words to express how she’s feeling. The next time around hopefully she knows she’ll be okay “not to be okay”, and she can process it faster.
Am I coddling my kids too much? I really don’t think so. In fact I feel that by allowing them to “not be ok”, they’re still going through the experience, but with some guidance as to how to make it out on the opposite end. They’re still learning how to deal with their feelings, because if I don’t teach them, they will learn it from somewhere else (and that is not okay with me!). After all, we can’t expect them to know what to do if they’ve never been taught it before!