I was not prepared for motherhood. Not for the emotional being who was now my responsibility. Not for the craziness, the crying, the fussing, the whining, the whining, the tantrums and raging meltdowns and not for what they would stir up in me.
I'd fought hard to become a mom, to wear that badge and I was going to be a good mom, a good enough mom!

I could feel it in my bones.

I was sure it was possible.

Ha! Nature tricked me. I was blindsided.

I had NO IDEA of what was coming the day our daughter arrived, the day I was given the title... mommy! The glow of confidence rapidly melted away. The realization hit me with force: I didn't know what to do.

And the Shame, oh the shame! I'd convinced myself I was capable, but this little being with what felt like gargantuan emotions were stirring up the worst in me.

I felt scared of her and who I was becoming.

How could I change this? Change my reactivity.

The sense of isolation and aloneness was an expanding chasm.

Thankfully in my seeking, I stumbled on a new approach. It felt supportive. Non-judgmental. I sensed I might find myself and the good enough mom I felt, somehow, I could be.

I signed up for a 10-month program of weekly support and learning. To this day I believe this course saved me and my relationship with my daughter.

It broke the self-inflicted isolation I was creating.

I found connection and support. I found acceptance, with peers who believed in me. I could tell my whole story and could feel the trust had in me that I would find my way to be the mom I knew I could be.

Good enough feels great

With this safety net, I started to experiment with the Listening Tools they introduced. Five tools that were surprisingly easy to integrate into my parenting. Five tools that taught me the value of play, of setting limits calmly and of sticking around for the emotions my child felt so strongly. I found I could respond to her with less anger, less tension, with more calm and kindness.

My relationship with my daughter started to change for the better.

That was five years ago.

My daughter is now 8. I won't pretend life is always a bed of roses, but I struggle less, and I am better able to tune into my daughter and her needs, to parent gently, yet firmly.

The sense of being a good enough mom has taken root. And good enough feels great! The drama is diminishing.

Handling my child's big feelings calmly helps me work on the real issues, not just the behavior

Last night she came home from a playdate, out of sorts, and mouthing off at her dad and me at the smallest thing. You could say that she was looking for a fight. I invited her to come have a snuggle despite it all.

And she did. She accepted my offer of connection.

And I listened.

She mouthed some more. And I listened.

Leaning into me, she told me, in a small voice, that she had taken something from her friend's house without asking. She said, "I feel bad."

And I loved her then. I loved that she felt secure enough to share that. To trust me with it.

I listened and I let her know I could that she was good even though she felt bad.

She came up with a plan to make amends. And I felt proud that she could do that.

If I hadn't learned to decode the behavior she was showing us as something more, something bigger than just "acting out" or "being rude," if I hadn't learned to lean into her upset and to listen that way, I would never have known the true upset causing her to lash out. I would never have been able to be there for her when she was feeling at her worst. After all, isn't that what we want? To be there?

Originally posted on Hand in Hand Parenting by Miranda Fairhall.

You might also like:

Raising a mentally strong kid doesn't mean he won't cry when he's sad or that he won't fail sometimes. Mental strength won't make your child immune to hardship—but it also won't cause him to suppress his emotions.

In fact, it's quite the opposite. Mental strength is what helps kids bounce back from setbacks. It gives them the strength to keep going, even when they're plagued with self-doubt. A strong mental muscle is the key to helping kids reach their greatest potential in life.

But raising a mentally strong kid requires parents to avoid the common yet unhealthy parenting practices that rob kids of mental strength. In my book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do, I identify 13 things to avoid if you want to raise a mentally strong kid equipped to tackle life's toughest challenges:

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play