Parenting is Hard

I have a smart and strong-willed thirteen year old daughter. These are traits that will serve her well as an adult; but it is often difficult and exhausting to navigate our relationship on a daily basis. Nothing seems to be straight forward and everything is up for debate and discussion. I sometimes feel isolated and lonely as I try to figure out this challenging phase of adolescence on my own.

Throughout the process so far, I have identified a few supportive tactics that I am finding to be helpful. I thought I would share them with you.

Hold Your Boundaries

Guilt. The common theme of parenting. Am I doing enough? Am I turning into my mother? How can I do/be better? These questions, although valid, lead to doubting your own decisions and inconsistency in approach. Do not do this to yourself. Make a decision and stick with it. As your child pushes against your boundaries, trust your inner knowing. Hold fast. Know that your child will ultimately respect you and feel more secure if you are consistent, gentle and firm. The boundary that you set is real for you in that moment. Honour it. You can always reflect and regroup at a later time.

Create Space for Discussion

Although it is important to hold firm in the heat of the moment, the reality is my child and I are in relationship with one another, and it requires work and an openness to improvement. Sometimes I make mistakes and I need to correct them later on with acknowledgement, apology and discussion. When we are in a calmer space, my daughter is better able to explain her perspective to me; and sometimes it changes the way that I see it. This impacts how I respond at a later date. Flexibility and adaptability are key. There is no right way. Just what is right based upon what you know right now.

Be Loving and Kind

I always tell my daughter that no one can hear her when she is yelling, and yet, I find myself doing the same thing. It is amazing how triggering being a parent can be, and how quickly I fall back into the patterns of my own childhood, where yelling was the common response. I am actively working to be mindful about not raising my voice, or I ask for a specific amount of time (e.g. 20 minutes), if I need a time out to regroup. I hold onto my wise, adult centre in these difficult times, and provide myself with love and support, as well as my child.

Testing is Normal

I need to remind myself that my daughter is not purposefully being difficult, she is testing the waters of independence, which is normal and to be expected. As Lisa Damour writes: “Your daughter needs a wall to swim to, and she needs you to be a wall that can withstand her comings and goings. Some parents feel too hurt by their swimmers, take too personally their daughter’s rejections, and choose to make themselves unavailable to avoid going through it again…But being unavailable comes at a cost…Their daughters are left without a wall to swim to and must navigate choppy—and sometimes dangerous—waters all on their own.

Take Care of You

I never planned on being a single parent. I did not sign up to do this on my own and it is hard. It brings up a lot of sadness, grief, anger and disappointment for a dream that is lost. This is the moment when I have to turn to myself for comfort and advice. I put my arm around my small, scared self and I say…Let it out. Cry if you need to. Feel all of your feelings. Try to relax. Breathe. Trust it will soon pass. Move your body. Go for a walk. Take a bath. Go to bed early. Breathe deeply. Ask for help. Talk to a friend. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. You got this. I believe in you.

Will You Be Mine?

The experience of being single often reminds me of a book that I used to like reading when I was a child called “Are You My Mother”? I relate to the newborn chick in the story, wandering alone and exposed throughout the world, asking each strange creature he encounters if its his mother: desperately seeking his match. In my case, whenever I encounter a potential mate, my inner voice quietly asks itself “Are You My Partner”?

I dip in and out of the online dating world. I am assured by others that it is the place to meet new people these days but it is a hard environment to navigate. There is such a wide range of people. It is a crowded space and everyone has very different needs and intentions. I am also told that in the particular city I live in, there are five single women available for every single male. These are not great odds.

I have now started to reorient the way that I think about this process: turning it from outward to inward facing. I consider each dating experience as an opportunity to learn more about myself. To develop and hone my skills of self-reflection and care. What are my boundaries? Can I be brave and ask for what I need? What is my inner knowing telling me? Can I hold onto myself when things get difficult? Can I initiate a difficult conversation? What are the red flags? Are they deal breakers? Do I truly choose this person or am I simply settling for companionship?

When I get disheartened, I often think back to this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

I want to live my life in the arena, daring greatly. This is a life worth living. It is messy and scary and unknown but it is where I need to be. I don’t ever know if I will ever find my perfect partner, but in the meantime, I will be my own perfect partner and keep loving myself fiercely, loyally and unconditionally. I will remain committed to becoming a better human, and version of myself, and I will keep getting up, no matter how many times I am knocked down, and continue trying.

Things I Love

In an effort to keep fitness easy and accessible, I am always looking for fun new ways to exercise at home. I was excited when I recently came across a new offering through Netflix called Nike Training Club. This is the first exercise program of its kind that I have come across on a streaming service. I hope that it is reflective of more to come!

Each program has multiple episodes — a grand total of 30 hours of exercise sessions released in two batches. The programs are available in multiple languages, on all Netflix plans, with workouts for all fitness levels and interests (e.g. strength training, yoga and high-intensity workouts).

While only the first batch of fitness classes has been launched, the streamer has said additional programs will be released in 2023. To find the collection of workout videos, just search ‘Nike’ on Netflix.

Something to Inspire

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Pexels.com

“The Korean Zen teacher Seung Sahn encouraged his students to have what he called “enough mind.” To have the attitude I already have everything I need. He said that when you want something you don’t have, there are two possible outcomes, and both result in suffering. If you don’t get what you want, you suffer from disappointment. If you do get what you want, you can experience temporary happiness, but pretty soon the happiness fades when it turns out that what you got isn’t quite as wonderful as you expected it to be. You begin to crave all over again, and you are right back in the cycle of craving and suffering.”

~ Excerpted from: Alive Until You’re Dead: Notes on the Home Stretch by Susan Moon

Joy Journal #30: December 25, 2022

Since I was thirteen years old, and my parents split up, and then remarried, I have had a blended family. No matter the holiday (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving) it meant two different celebrations, in two different households. When I got married myself, we added in my husband’s family into the mix; and when we eventually got divorced, my daughter began her own complicated journey with juggling multiple families over the holiday season.

It has always been hard to try and fit everyone in, and manage family dynamics. So many people and so many expectations. This year, I decided to take a step back from tradition. I wanted to try and celebrate the holiday season in a way that felt right for me, rather than prioritizing everyone else. This meant asking myself some hard questions: What do I want to invite more of into my life? And what can I let go of?

The holidays are an emotionally charged time for everyone. Although it was difficult to make change, as it required setting boundaries, and risking the disappointment of others, I did my best to approach it with kindness and compassion.

As a result, I enjoyed the first Christmas in forty-seven years that truly embodied the spirit of the season for me: Friendship. Community. Love. Joy. Ease. Laughter. Connection. It was all of the best things rolled into one, and for that, I am so deeply grateful. #JoyBlogging

Aix at Christmas

This past spring, I had the amazing privilege of living in Aix-en-Provence, France for two months with my daughter. Aix will forever be an incredibly special place to me and it is a one that I hope to return to many times in my life.

As I take time to slow down over the holiday season, I discovered this lovely series of photos taken by a traveller; and it took me on a virtual journey back to my beloved Provence. It warmed my heart so I thought I would share it with you.

A Christmas Miracle

On November 11, 2021, my best friend woke up in the middle of the night and suffered a catastrophic brain hemorrhage. She was only forty-six years old. Prior to entering the operating room, the surgeon gave her a 1% chance to survival; and even if she did survive, he predicted that she would be unable to eat, walk or function with ‘normal’ brain activity again.

A year and a month later, Sara is back at work full-time and engaging in her life at pre-surgery levels. She is really and truly a living miracle. I look at my friend and I often have to pinch myself that she is still here. I am blown away by her courage, strength and resilience. Her story of survival reminds me not to take anything in this life for granted and to cherish each and every moment with the people we love.