Friday, May 23, 2014

Getting Into Gear

Parenting is hard.  It is the most difficult thing about my life.  Being a parent means having a ton of latent stress.  I find myself plagued with questions of the nature of, "Is my kid going to fit in at school?"  "Are they going to do well enough to get by in society?"  "Are they willing to learn and adapt to their environment?"
It really doesn't matter what the question is, the point is that I can't push them all out of my mind.  They weigh on me, as a father.  It weighs me down and slows me down.
When I'm not dealing with latent stress regarding my kids, I'm dealing with actual stress from my kids or job.  Keeping a toddler alive is a stressful job.
Stress sometimes gets to me.  I can't just brush it off all the time.  Some days, I can't just "cowboy up."

But sometimes I can.  Dani and I call such times as "shifting."  We have our neutral positions (pinterest for Dani, bloons tower defense for me), and we have our different gears.  When we shift into gear, we're spending energy and getting good things done.  When we're in "neutral," we're regaining energy.

The kids force us into gear frequently.  While we are doing good things when the kids shift us, usually we don't do them in a good way.  That's when we start yelling, and getting upset.  When we chose to shift, that's when we're patient, kind, and deliberately good parents.

I feel like a bad parent when I'm forced into action.  I hate yelling at my kids.  I don't like punishing them for trivial reasons.  I feel like a bad person if I am forced to shift.

So I'm working on building the strength to choose to be a good parent, and to motivate myself into action.  Here are some of the things that I've tried that have helped:

1.  Read my scriptures
  I'm a religious person, so this is an uplifting activity for me that gives me more emotional strength.  It could be any good book that can engage your mind and emotions.  For me, the scriptures are my go-to source.
2.  Go out alone
  Babysitters are hard and require planning.  Ya know what, though, not everything I do requires my spouse present.  I like arcade games, and sometimes just doing something I enjoy on my own can help get me back in a positive frame of mind.
3.  Spend some one on one time with your kids
  My daughters have good days and bad days.  When I need to recharge or refocus my efforts, I find one of my kids who is having a good day and spend some one on one time with them doing something they want to do.
4.  Do something nice for your kids
  Their excitement can be infectious, and anything out of the ordinary can be exciting.  My kids talk about trips we've taken with them to the candy store for days on end.  Anything new is exciting, and anything nice you do for them can quickly put positive feedback and energy into your daily life.
5.  Set boundaries
  Your gonna be forced to do things you don't want to do as a parent.  I have never once changed a diaper because that was my heart's burning desire at that moment.  When you do have to act as the "bad guy" for your kids, chose some lines that you won't cross.  For me, the line I don't cross is saying something as if I were assigning a negative label to my kids.  e.g. it's okay to say, "you did something very stupid" but it's not okay to say, "you are stupid" to my kids.  Those boundaries will put some silver linings on your dark cloud moments.
6.  Involve kids to participate in your neutral state
  I play games when I'm in neutral.  I often find one (or more) of my kids on my lap when I'm playing.  Sometimes, having them there is enough to turn my mind and my will towards being a better parent, and it leads to play time with my kids.  Sometimes, just letting your kids watch you can be a good positive motivator.

Why I'm (still) a Mormon

I don't expect much more to ever be posted on this blog, and I'm largely just posting this to share it with some particular friends....