Making Space for the Hard Stuff

Let’s get super honest right off the top.

Parenthood is the hardest job you will ever do.

Whether you are a mother, a father, a step parent, an adoptive grandparent, an adoptive parent… whatever your entry point to parenthood is, it is the most challenging, most transformational, most real work that any of us will ever do

In parenthood you will meet your edge in ways that you never imagined, and see parts of yourself that you thought you had long ago buried or excised, never to be seen again. Parenthood, like nothing else, brings each of us face to face with ourselves – the good, the bad, the ugly, the unimaginable and the transcendent.

When we embark upon becoming parents we spend lots of time in fantasy about the beauty. The sweet, impossibly small clothing and the cherubic face of our infant. Holding hands with our preschooler as we walk by the river. Sharing our favourite books, stories and toys to the rapture and delight of our beautiful mini selves.

The reality is so different.  Yes, there is beauty, transcendent beauty, joy, laughter, happiness and connection. There is also pain, heartbreak, exhaustion, frustration, mundanity, rage and nearly every other deep, dark, ugly emotion that most of us were never given the tools to really navigate with any kind of mastery.  The feelings we hide from, we stuff down and we avoid at all costs, these are what compose the core of parenthood.

They are inevitable and essential, and we need to learn how to make space for them.

We do this by making space for them within ourselves first, because the deep truth of it is that we cannot teach to our children what we do not know ourselves.

When our child won’t sleep because they anxious, what do we do? Do we even see the anxiety within ourselves? How do we sit with our own fear? If our habit is to run from and hide from our own fear, this anxious child, still awake in front of us will bring us face to face with ourselves.

This does not feel good, and we will want to run and hide.

What society teaches us as parents is that we have encountered a “problem”, and that it’s our job to “fix it”.  The deeper truth is that we treat big emotions like problems in our children because we see them as problems within ourselves.  We have somehow lost connection to the reality that all emotions are a part of full and rich human experience.

We so often strive for perfection, and forget that progress is what parenthood is made of. No end product, no destination. Growth.   Not only theirs, but our own as well.

Yelling can be a symptom of something deeper within you, telling you exactly where you need to look as a person in order to find the answers to what you do as a parent.

The next time you come face to face with a feeling that scares you, in yourself or your child, I challenge you to breathe, step back and take a careful look at what your truth is in that moment as a person, dig deeper into your story and I suspect that you will find some powerful answers to whatever parenthood dilemma you are facing.

It may not be pretty, and it certainly won’t be perfect, but it will be progress, and that is what parenthood is all about.

“You will only accept your child to the degree that you accept yourself.”

Dr. Shefali Tsabary


**This article appears in the October issue of Windsor Parent Magazine 

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