November 15, 2013

Little Moment Parenting

For a really long time I was trying to do what I thought of as Big Picture Parenting.
My goal was for my kids to have happy childhoods with traditions and outings and fun memories. I wanted them to be well-formed: virtuous, happy, kind, with a love of books and an appreciation for trying new food.

I didn't really know how or even if I would be able to reach that goal but I decided I'd just do my best, keep them fed, relatively clean, teach them their prayers, and have them play outside a little every day and with a wing and a prayer they'd end up that way.
All the little things throughout every day didn't matter too much because in the end they'd just have a Big Picture of what their childhoods had been and as long as that Big Picture looked good I had done a good job.

But in the quiet and the still I was also worried, and confused. I had always been a great babysitter, which made me think I'd be a great mom. But I really wasn't and over the last five years I've wondered many times why I wasn't a great mom. What had happened to the fun young woman who would act silly, be patient with mistakes, be okay with a mess, and be willing to do something spur of the moment and fun? I kept trying to pray more, to go to confession more, to try to rely on Christ's strength but I just wasn't getting any better. If this was a cross that I was given to grow in holiness, well I just was not doing it.

Then one day a couple of months ago I realized that while I was not necessarily depressed I was angry, anxious, and stressed; I had postpartum depression, perhaps with a little bit of post traumatic stress disorder. So I began treatment and after three weeks of medication I noticed something:
My kids, husband, and home were happier. I was happier. That mystery of what had happened to the fun, patient woman was solved by a little blue pill. (This is not to say that Christ wasn't enough. Speaking only for myself and my situation, I really believe that God wanted me to set aside my pride and get medical help so that my mind and body would be well enough to work with the grace He was wanting to give me.)

For the first few weeks I would catch myself reacting graciously and generously to my children and I'd mentally pull back from the moment. "Aha!" I'd shout in my head, "This is the medication working." I could see how loved they felt. I could see them relax because they could get it wrong and it would be okay - I'd let them try again and not flip my lid. Life and motherhood still tested my patience and allowed for the opportunity to grow in virtue but it was manageable.
It was in those "Aha" moments that I finally realized something: my Big Picture Parenting was bound to fail because I had gotten so many of the little moments wrong. I had been hoping for a forest of happy memories to make up a Happy Childhood but then realized that I didn't have enough trees, so to speak.

So now I'm trying a new approach to parenting: Little Moment Parenting. (It's what I call it in my head, as I remind myself of what I need to do.)
It's not that I'm setting aside the Big Picture, but I am definitely being more intentional with the Little Moments. I'm trying to fix the way I guide, interact with, and respond to my kids so that they will begin to change the way they follow, interact with, and initiate towards me. I don't want them to just say, "I had a happy childhood." I want them to say, "We had a safe, loving, happy home." I want them to tell their grandkids about their Mom, a woman who was generous with her patience, compassion, mercy, love, and fun. I don't want them to just have a forest of a Happy Childhood; I want them to have all the trees, the stories that will warm their hearts, make them laugh, and remind them - long after I am gone - of how much I love them.

24 comments:

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  3. Girl, my heart just swells with joy and relief for you.

    I hope it's ok, I linked to this article today!

    P.S. Missed your 7QT song recommendation of the week! ;-)

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  4. The little moments can develop into big picture, but a big picture doesn't develop backwards into little moments. Glad that the medication is helping with the symptoms. If you ever need help with this aspect of it (psych meds, counseling etc.) please consider me a source for information. I would be happy to help.

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  5. Thank you, as usual (!), for your wonderful insight and willingness to share it with others, Bonnie. You are a wonderful and thoughtful mother and an encouragement to other moms.

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  6. Do you think you will use medication for the long term? I always struggle with discerning how much of my own difficulties (things like anxiety or impatience) are crosses I need to carry and work through and how much is simply a physical issue that needs to be addressed. I know PPD is more of an acute situation but I'm curious how you will be discerning your need for medication, if it's not too personal to ask. Thanks, as always, for your honesty on this blog.

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    1. Hi Karyn. Thanks for the question - it's a good one.

      My midwife suggested that I stay on it for 6 months and at that point we will wean me off it and see how things go. At that point I may need a smaller dose every day or I may not need it at all.

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    2. I guess I should also mention that besides the anxiety and anger I had other signs of PPD so it wasn't just a lack of virtue. I haven't really talked about that on the blog though because I want to keep those things private.

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    3. Thanks for your answer. I always worry that my hesitance to take medication might be keeping me from being a better mom. But I'm glad you're feeling more strength and clarity.

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  7. Beautiful!! Thank you for always sharing what's on your heart and in your life. I love reading what you write and your reflections often touch me and the way I think about things :)

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  8. This is wonderful Bonnie. I had prepartum depression and anxiety and it was amazing to me how important the medication ended up being for me. It's like I was a completely different person.

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  9. wonderful insight! (did that sound SPAMmy, because I'm real and mean it.)

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  10. The little moments add up. So glad you are feeling better!

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  11. I really really needed to read this post today Bonnie! This sounds a lot like what I've been going through.

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  12. Bonnie! This is beautiful. I struggle with a lot of the same issues you describe and this is so insightful.

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  13. This is incredibly helpful to me. Thanks!

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  14. Wonderful post! Your honesty is helpful and encouraging. Thank you!

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  15. I thought this was really beautiful and insightful, Bonnie. Parenting is such a roller coaster, and I feel like after reading this it helps me to step back and analyze in a good way what is working for me as a mother and what is not...what is important and what is not....what is a good approach to have and what is not. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  16. This is a great post, Bonnie. I have been working toward the same revelation... My situation is not exactly the same as yours but I could still relate.... I put a lot of pressure on myself to get the big stuff right, to have successful kids who feel safe and loved, to create memories of our warm and loving home, including all our traditions and warm fuzzies we feel for one another. My problem is, I tend to get caught up in the "SHOULD" way of thinking, and I get super stressed and angry when things don't go as they should. I couldn't understand why I was so angry all the time. I thought maybe I was depressed or that there was something else very wrong with me. With the painstaking help of my therapist, I am trying to switch to a "WANT" frame of mind, trying to be gentler with myself, and focus on the feelings I want in the moment. For instance, I try to tell myself, for me to feel happy and peaceful right now is more important than my kids being able to be quiet and still as we read books before bed. If I can focus on the feelings I want to cultivate in the little moments, it helps me let go of the pressure of getting all the Big Stuff right. As a result I think the Big Stuff will really end up being all right. Funny how that works. Great post, thanks for sharing your experience. xoxo

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  17. Thank you for being open about your current need for medication and how it has helped you. I feel like whenever this comes up in conversation I have to correct someone about thinking medication is a cure-all or cop out, or that it's a slippery slope that you must slide down once you start. - From someone who was on medication for anxiety and depression for about a year.

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  18. I think it's heartwarming that your faith and own inner strength have helped you along this journey. But I don't think that you should have ever described yourself as anything less than a great mother, since you are obviously so thoughtful and focused on the happiness of your family.

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