Ahh . . . . Mother’s Day. The day we mothers are the lucky recipients of slightly burnt toast, soggy cereal, and orange juice in bed, sloppy sentimental homemade cards, and usually a handprint drawing or 2 from the littlest ones.
One Mother’s Day, after I could drive, I surprised my mom by bringing her to the lakefront for a picnic to be followed by a movie. As I unpacked the food, my mom took one look at the sandwiches and asked, “where’d you get the buns? Did you check them?” The counter and no, were my answers. The sandwiches, with their faint green undersides, went right into the garbage and we sat with growling stomachs through a mediocre movie. Despite all these imperfections . . . my mom loved it. And us moms love the messy breakfasts and the paint smeared cards. We love seeing the sweet sides of our kids and can feel their love in every carbon-covered bite.
And no, I don’t really want to give those things up.
However, this Mother’s Day, there is one thing I’d really like. And my kids can’t give it to me. Yes, I’d like them to be quiet and have a meltdown free day, sure, but I’m fairly adapted to this fringy lifestyle, so the day will be as it will be. No, I really just want everyone else to shut up and leave me alone.
Let me explain. I was pulled in to read the following article by its title, “Connect Instead of Correct and Other Ways to Change Your Parent Perspective”. Truth be told, I only read the first 4 words of the title and I was interested to see if it was a good article to share on the Fringy Bit facebook page. So, I read it, hoping to find a simplicity-based, relationship-centric encouraging article. In many ways, I completely agreed with all the facets of the article, but as I continued reading, I grew more and more irritated. Not because of this article’s advice, really. Many of the same 10 phrases have been uttered from my own lips. No, I grew irritated because there were 10 phrases. Because it was filled with advice. Because it is one of the bazillion and one parenting articles that are constantly telling us what to do. And I want to tell all those parenting article writers to SHUT UP and just LET ME PARENT!
(Yes, I appreciate the irony of me wanting to tell writers about parenting to shut up, given that I, myself, could be classified as a parenting writer, I suppose. But, frankly, sometimes I do want to tell myself to just shut up.)
We live in an era of instant access to information. Our brains cannot even keep up with all the information we are accessing. And this information-saturated landscape seems to be contributing to heightened feelings of anxiety and stress-related illness and symptoms. One Swedish study has found that self-reported anxiety has increased 4.4% among males and nearly 6% among females over the past 25 years. Anecdotally, parents, teachers, and therapists are noting a seeming increase in anxious kiddos over the past 3-5 years, especially.
Now, as far as I know, information overload has not been proven to be directly linked to this increase in anxiety, but when we look at biology, it makes sense. Our brains can’t differentiate between perceived stressors and actual life or death stressors. So, everything we read about that might be even slightly alarming, triggers a stress reaction in our brains and bodies. I scroll through my facebook feed and there are many, many headlines that my brain perceives as threatening. Welcome stress response. Welcome anxiety.
Let’s circle back to parenting. We have never before parented our young amongst so much information and advice. It used to be the irritating next door neighbor or great aunt Mildred were the only advice givers, and we could choose to just avoid them. Now, we have article after article, website after website, giving us advice on how to successfully raise our kids. As far as I can tell, all that this information has done, is create anxious parents, not necessarily better parents.
Yes, there are times when we need advice. There are times when we need suggestions. I spend a great deal of my practice counseling parents on specific parenting strategies. Especially with fringy kids, it’s extra difficult to know what to do and we tear through our intrinsic parenting manual too quickly and need to borrow someone else’s for a while.
Most often, though, my parenting advice, is to throw away the parenting books. Unsubscribe from parenting websites. Stop reading the lists of 10 ways to raise a successful child. Declutter your brain and ignore parenting advice that you haven’t intentionally sought out from your own trusted people.
I get sucked into all these, too. And most of the time, I feel irritated or like my mothering has been self-scrutinized and found to be lacking.
We are human. We are doing the best we can. If my kids feel loved, I’m doing my job. End of story. Trust yourself. Prioritize love and connection. Tell everyone else to shut up so you can hear your own still, small voice, and your family will be just fine.
Though, on second thought, keep listening to the Fringy Bit. You can tell us to shut up, but we’re gonna keep on talking, anyway. 😉