I have been doing some posting about time management and how more is not necessarily better in this post. I have been monitoring my own behavior when it comes to my daily routines and what I seem to feel is important and what I stress over. (I think if I listed what I don't stress over the list would be shorter!) As well, as what seems to follow most parents, especially parents with special needs kids. You know that feeling that you get at the end of the day when the kids are about to go to bed, or perhaps after.... the one that nags in the depth of the back of your mind all day. Lurking, but not terribly vocal, but always present. Guilt. The feeling that maybe you could have, should have, would have done more. You read a blog from a parent where they have it all together. They did therapy for all 7 of their special needs kids, made 3 gluten free from scratch, homemade meals, went to lunch with their friends, potty trained one child, house is cleaned and even had the time to write about it in their award winning blog before they go to bed.
Maybe, the above is an exaggeration, but still.... I think there are several of us parents with special needs kids that feel that way at the end of the day. I carry this narrative around all day that I tell myself all these negative, half baked truths about what other moms are and what I must be compared to them. The story that I tell myself is familiar, but not useful for a calm, mindful parent that I'd like to be. When I come down hard on myself and expect a certain level of unattainable perfection I am grumpy, short, and snappy. When one feels bad on the inside you will reflect that on the outside, no matter how much we think our feelings and emotions are ours alone to contend with.
I have been telling myself these stories with my thoughts for so many years that it's automatic. I had to really put some effort to go off of autopilot to examine my thoughts. It's been an experience for me to mindfully look at what I believe and really question the truth to it. To hold up my own thoughts and examine them. Before, I didn't think much about them, nor did I question them. I just bought my thoughts as true. My reality. But, what if they weren't true? How will I know? What is the test? Is there such a thing as true or false with thoughts and feelings?
And, so with Mindfulness and the ACT therapy I have been studying comes in handy here. Let's break this down using a common thought or two of mine that is less than positive....
"I didn't take Beans to the bathroom today to practice potty training"
Now, the above thought can be replaced with, I didn't try to incorporate enough signs in his day, or engage him enough, or exert enough effort in making sure I somehow snuck enough nutrition into his diet. As well, as with my other son, maybe I felt I didn't write a social story to explain something to him better, or socialize him more, or practice emotion cards with him... the list is really endless...But, back to breaking down the italicized thought above. Who's voice is this? Is it mine? Or is it someone from my past that may have always said critical things to me? Do I like this story, or benefit from it? Is it helpful? How does this make me feel and does it motivate me to be the self I want to be in order to meet my own goals and values?
After I have asked myself the questions above I come to the realization that this is not my voice, I don't like how it makes me feel and it's not helpful to me. It's not necessarily bad or wrong, but also not a thought that I am buying into as something that is representative of me. I notice the thought and let it go without reaction. I can't be perfect. I'm human with limitations and feelings. The kind of mother I want to be is one who is happy, relaxed, and confident. I can't be her when I'm buying the stories that I spoke about above. I have to make a choice and a conscious decision as to what kind of parent I can be vs the kind of parent I think I ought to be.
This isn't to say that sometimes we don't have to make changes and do thing differently. The diet that I often speak of in this blog was a big change and one that required effort. I didn't lose weight by simply being upset at myself, though. I vowed to make some real changes, because I felt that I needed that to happen to be the person I want to be. I am not berating and depriving myself of treats and freedom, but rather eating better. I don't chastise myself into dieting, because that never works. Same with parenting. Truth be told, Beans is in the very early stages potty training and isn't cognitively or physically ready to be trained yet. Myself, and the staff that work with him are just acclimating him to the toilet by introducing it slowly. The fact that I didn't take him very much, or at all for that matter, isn't a big deal and I shouldn't make it one inside of my mind when it's time for me to relax. Letting myself be, in the moment without judgment is a difficult task, but worth the practice.