One of the most useful things I learned when I did my CBT counselling was to live in the now and not turn challenging moments into catastrophic, never-ending events. As a parent, this saves me on a daily basis. Because, it’s so easy to let sleep-deprivation, difficult behaviour and the general relentlessness of parenthood frame and define your ‘forever’ instead of telling yourself, ‘It’s ok. Really. This will pass.’
No such thing as perfect.
It took me a LONG time to realise that a perfect day of parenting doesn’t exist. That there’s no such thing.
Before this eureka moment, I spent a lot of time feeling disappointed. In myself. In my kids. I wanted things to be, well, perfect. Or at least happy from morning until night. Was that really too much to ask?
Erm, yes. Of course it was.
How to live in the now.
I love a bit of self-help. Who doesn’t? So, when I started CBT, the idea of living in the moment wasn’t new to me. I’d heard of it many, many times before. It was, however, impossible for me to do.
And anyway, who wants to live in the moment, when the moment is filled with tantrums, back-arching or poo?
‘This too shall pass.’
I soon learned that living in the moment and, more importantly, remembering that moments pass is completely liberating. It’s freed me from myself. My catastrophic thoughts. And the feeling that I am going to be marooned in this current version of hell, forever.
Because, sometimes, parenting is nothing if not various versions of hell. A public tantrum. A sleepless night (month or year). An uneaten dinner (again). It can take you to the brink. It can make you shout. Cry. Drink gin at midday (I never do this, by the way.).
Until you realise those moments aren’t forever, they’re sandwiched between less hellish moments and often, a few very pleasurable ones.
One of those days?
Take today, for example.
It started with the girls taking advantage of my absence (ok, I was trying to squeeze in an extra half hour in bed but anyway…) and drizzling sticky golden syrup and chocolate sauce over malted milk biscuits. The floor. The rug. And themselves.
Then, I caught The Boy with No Name licking a tiny piece of cat poo, whilst I was emptying the washing machine. May I just add that ordinarily we don’t have cat poo lying around the house. But our outdoor cats had obviously had an incident in the utility room, that I hadn’t noticed yet. That, naturally, he had. Fortunately, he didn’t like the taste, which at least disproves my theory that he will eat ANYTHING.
I was about to write Wednesday off. When Beaver surprised me by making a picnic for us ALL BY HERSELF. An actual, proper picnic. There were sandwiches, crisps, fruit and crudites that she’d cut up. It was as good as something I would have made. (Actually? It was probably better.)
You see. Poo, one moment. Unexpected happiness, the next.
When we got to the park, our happiness evaporated. Fast.
Godivy and The Boy with No Name took turns crying. Beaver started demanding my attention. And I tried to keep three kids safe in the playground, whilst constantly performing a risk assessment of who to save first.
By the time we left the park, Godivy and The Boy with No Name had cheered up. But Beaver was sobbing as apparently, I love the boy more.
Because I chose to save him from jumping off a rock whilst she fell off the swing.
‘It’s going to be fine.’
Trips like this used to KILL me. I would probably have shouted. Cried. Or run for the hills.
But, now, I can pretty much detach myself from them (unless I’m getting my period). Because I know that, in a moment or two, we’re all going to be back home. Watching Beauty and the Beast on the sofa. With popcorn.
And none of us will even remember who was crying 15 minutes ago. Or why.
Because that particular moment has passed.
(Until the next one, anyway.)