You know those times when you half-wake-up after falling asleep in a bit of an uncomfortable position? You contemplate moving your arm out from under you but you worry that it will be a bit painful after being under there so long, and despite it being uncomfortable, it sort of is a weird kind of comfortable now ’cause you’re body has been molded to that shape…
Also, what if you move and get into an even more uncomfortable position? And by the time you have found the sweet spot, you’re wide awake and struggle to get back to sleep?
On top of all that, while you are clambering around you risk disturbing the person sleeping next to you because they are absolutely fine where they are thank you very much, and now they are half-awake and a bit miffed with you?
Well… that’s how it felt going from a mainstream parent to a respectful parent!
‘Oh good lord, what is she yammering on about now!?’
Let me try and explain…
Half-awake, in an uncomfortable position.
My eldest son is 8 in a couple of months, and for about 7 years of that I have been a mainstream parent.
I went with the grain.
I didn’t really know that there were different types of parenting, I just knew there were certain tricks, tips and techniques to try when something isn’t working.
I was offered many, as all parents are, when I was going through certain ‘stages’ and ‘phases’ with my children.
‘Why don’t you try supernanny’s method?’
‘Instead of a time out, why don’t you try a reward chart?’
‘Maybe he needs to learn to be away from you?’
Etc etc etc…
I was under the impression that parenting was just trial and error with manipulation techniques that had already been figured out, and you just had to find the right one that worked for your kid.
How would I know any better? Parents have been doing this for a bloody long time and I was just me – a new mum with no experience!
Nothing really worked though.
I mean, some things worked in that moment, sure.
But it was always a roller coaster of feeling elated something had been successful and then drained when it failed the next time.
Not to mention that a lot of it felt uncomfortable.
I hated hearing my children cry. Even if they had been ‘naughty’.
I felt wrong when I punished them.
I didn’t like to argue with them.
I could empathise with their feelings but I was worried they wouldn’t learn how to be ‘sociable adults’ if they weren’t told off for certain behaviours.
In the early days, I hate to admit I tried the controlled crying method too.
It. Was. Awful.
It’s mad that society can make you ignore what is so glaringly obvious.
I cried and cried and cried, I felt sick leaving my babies so distraught, and still, I powered through because apparently they are ‘supposed to’ sleep in their own beds.
Both my child and I were devastated with the separation but it was ignored because of societies expectations.
So I was half-awake, it felt really uncomfortable I contemplated moving my arm out from under me but I was worried that it would be a bit painful after being under there so long. Facing the truth that I had been a ‘bad parent’.
Besides, was there a more comfortable position anyway? Or was this all there was?
Disturbing the person sleeping next to you.
There was a point when things were getting pretty hard.
About a year and a half ago.
I was feeling pretty low if i’m honest.
I desperately wanted a happy family, don’t we all?
I didn’t have one. Not really.
There were 5 different personalities in this house, all with conflicting wants and needs.
For example: My sons were at school back then and, after the school run, they would dump their stuff by the back door (the one we use) and run off upstairs to play. They were desperate to be free after a day of rules and boredom and I had the toddler to deal with and dinner to prep, so I was happy to have the space and avoid conflict.
After all the rush of dinner and the toddler’s bed time, my husband would come home to find a forgotten pile of shoes, coats, bags and lunch boxes in his path and become instantly irritated with the boys. He too wanted to come home and be free after a hard day at work and his needs weren’t being met.
So I tried to make the boys put their things away after school the next few days, but it took a while to organise everything and they would battle with me every time, causing arguments as their needs weren’t being met. The need to end school for the day and be able to be kids. I would become more and more stressed and my fuse would get shorter because my needs weren’t being met. The need to see to the toddler, have a happy atmosphere and for dinner not to take 3 hours due to constant interruptions to tell the boys to get on with it!
I looked online almost everyday, trying to find different techniques and routines that would suit everyone. Reading and reading and trying and trying.
Some would temporarily work, some wouldn’t.
Different techniques would suit one of us and not the rest.
I was getting lower and lower with my mental health.
I would feel really excited when a new attempt seemed to be working, to then be told it wasn’t working for my husband, or my middle child etc etc.
I was feeling like I was pushing everyone away with every attempt and they were getting tired with hearing ‘Hey guys, I’ve got a great idea!’ and at some point they were just going to revolt, my husband would decide enough is enough and leave and the kids would pack their bags and ask to live with Grandma!
I just wanted to shake them all and say ‘I’m trying to help you! I just want you all to be happy! What can I do!?’
I was disturbing the person sleeping next to me, trying to find a way to get comfortable.
By the time you have found the sweet spot, you’re wide awake and struggle to get back to sleep.
This is when I stumbled across respectful parenting.
I can’t even remember what article it was, I just remember being opened up to the idea that children were actually, you know, people too!
If I saw the whole idea of mainstream parenting through their eyes, it was obvious why it wasn’t working!
If I were being treated this way – tricked, manipulated, controlled etc – I would be very unhappy too and would certainly fight against it!
If I had absolutely no say on what I wear, what I eat, how much I eat, when I eat, how I wish to spend my time, who I wish to spend my time with, how I feel about things, what I want to do with my life, how I want to do it, what I want to express etc etc then I would be miserable.
I wouldn’t stand for it.
In today’s world, the idea of respecting children is a pretty radical one.
(Isn’t that awful?!)
Especially when mainstream parenting is what we have always done.
With my new discovery came the realisation that school had to go too.
Anyone who goes against the grain and say’s ‘NO.’ to normal is looked down upon and viewed as extreme or weird and certainly not someone to be agreed with.
I should know, i’m a weird vegan lady! 😉
All my family and friends are mainstream ‘school is the most important thing in the world’ type parents.
My husband, with his army background, even more so!
On top of that, I had already changed so much (in everyone else’s eyes) by going vegan, this would surely rock the boat to the point where everyone would assume I was having a mental breakdown and organise an intervention! Or at least give me a hell of a lot of awkward, finger pointy, conversations.
I wasn’t sure if I was able to cope with any more of that.
What I was sure about, was that I couldn’t live with myself if I ignored what I now knew about mainstream parenting, and the effect it had on my children.
Much like going vegan, after discovering the horrors of what these innocent animals go through, just to feed people diseases that ultimately kill them, I couldn’t go back to unnecessarily eating animal products again and being a part of the problem.
I was awake.
There is no going back to sleep after that.
But do you know what?
I don’t want to go back to sleep.
Sure it doesn’t feel nice to be the ‘outsider’.
Sure it’s awkward to refuse advice from someone and have to explain that it’s because you think it’s wrong to do that to a child.
I am totally ok with doing what is right, even if it means that no one understands me. Even if everyone I love thinks i’m loopy. Even if people think I’ve ‘changed too much’. Even if my family and friends talk about me behind my back and there is an awkward hush when I enter a room on Christmas day. Even if me being respectful to my children shines an uncomfortable light on the fact you disrespect yours.
None of those things are my problem.
I will continue to be my children’s voice.
I will continue to share what I have discovered.
I will continue to stand for what I know is right.
As long as even just one person is listening I will continue to fight for the rights of children.
And if that makes you feel uncomfortable, perhaps you should try moving your arm out from under you, even if it wakes the person sleeping next to you?