Parenting solo is hard. I could self-criticize plenty of things I did better when there were two of us, but I’m not here to dwell on those today. This weekend, I realized how grief has changed a specific part of my parenting style for the better.
Saturday morning, my middle son was woken up by his loud older brother and his friends. He came into my room upset by the wake up. He told me he’d been in the middle of a ‘really good’ dream. It was one where his dad was still alive, and they were together. He had tears in his eyes as he shared this dream interruption with me. Ugh, what a heartbreaker.
I acknowledged his feelings and snuggled him until he was ready to get up. I did not tell him, not to be mad because the sleep disturbance was unintentional or say at least you dreamed of dad for a little while. Those things don’t help and are irrelevant to his feelings.
This encounter had me looking back over my parenting style and without even realizing I was doing so; I’ve been working to acknowledge their feelings and just letting them be.
Teaching my kids that the intention behind a comment doesn’t matter if you still hurt someone’s feelings. You can still apologize for hurting their feelings, you don’t need to say you didn’t mean to. What your intentions are doesn’t change the fact it hurt someone, and apologizing doesn’t mean you are a bad. I think kids (and adults) sometimes associate an apology with bad behavior.
When they are upset about something external, I’ve been working on just acknowledging the transgression or feeling. Instinctually, I want to fix their feelings and tell them – “No! You’re super smart” or “At least you had a good block.” If I say these things to them, it’s just like someone telling me some ‘At Least’ statement about Tony’s death. Not helpful.
So, I try and just listen. I resist the urge to tell them they are wrong or it’s all going to be okay. I acknowledge what they’re feeling, telling them that it sounds like they are having big feelings or that it must be hard. Basically, I find myself treating them how I want to be treated when I express my feelings around Tony’s death.
This isn’t something I was good at before and it’s not in our fix it culture nature, but I’m working on it.