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Did I completely screw up my kids?

This weeks episode of "We Can Do Hard Things" with Glennon Doyle was a good one. She spoke with Dr. Becky, who is someone that I admire and enjoy listening to. She's a parenting psychologist who urges moms and dads to take a more compassionate, gentle approach when it comes to disciplining your children. Sometimes when I listen to these kinds of podcasts I get more stressed out, wanting to immediately implement all of the strategies that are discussed. I read "self-help" books and I end up wanting to completely change the way I am doing everything right away. Or in the case of the podcast, I often feel totally overwhelmed by the end of the 45 minute talk and want to cry. This episode had me feeling that at times, but I tried to breathe deeply and take breaks from it.

My kids overwhelm me, that's no lie. That is one of the biggest reasons why I drank. To escape the stress of motherhood. So, when I listened to Abby and Glennon talk to Dr. Becky about ways to better understand your 4 year old child who is having a tantrum, and that what they want is actually to made to feel safe and understood - not yelled at and abandoned in their room in time out - I feel ashamed and sad for all the times I did just that to each of my children.

So it's hard not to wonder - did I completely screw up my kids over the years? I have often thought this when it comes to my drinking too. How much did my drinking totally mess them up? How much do they remember? Do they know that I was totally hungover all those mornings or drunk all those nights? So then to think all of my sober parenting was actually a disaster too, that's a lot to handle. A lot of guilt and shame.

Obviously, I know I am not a bad mom, and I can be especially hard on myself. Even Dr. Becky said she follows like 30% of her own parenting advice with her children! She did say on the podcast that we can work on reparenting ourselves though. We all need to learn to forgive ourselves a bit. Try to show some compassion to the person that matters - to you. Self compassion is huge. She said take this sentence “I am a good person who did _______.” Think about that shameful event from your past that you may obsess over or that gets you down from time to time. Insert that into the sentence.

For me - "I'm a good person who fell victim to the chains of alcohol."

Another phrase that I try to use with my three kids is “I believe you." These 3 words are really important because so often we diminish the way our kids feel. As parents, we are always yelling at our kids and making them feel misunderstood. It allows the compassion and kindness to move in. I actually tried that on my daughter this week I saw all the tension drain out her body immediately, and her crying fit stopped. Miracle. Apparently, we can also use this with ourselves. I haven't but maybe I should try this kind of positive self-talk. Self-compassion is something I have been working on since early sobriety, always listening to the introvert's many opinions chattering away inside my brain.

On another note - last night we went to a Revs game at Gillette stadium as a family. As I always say about these kinds of things, this whole night would have been a prime opportunity for me to get nice and drunk. Large stadium beers combined with a lively, rowdy crowd would have been a perfect recipe to hide my binge drinking from my husband. But I didn't do that obviously. I cheered on the players with my kids, staying engaged with the game, and I drank a nice Pellegrino. I appreciated the atmosphere and enjoyed some decent stadium snacks. I had a lovely time and never once thought it could be enhanced by alcohol. Actually, I said to myself, I'm so grateful I don't have the voice of alcohol in my head begging me to stumble down to the concession to get "just one more."

I was clear-headed to pull the shoot early and call it a night before the game ended to get the kids home in time. And Evan used a line from Glennon's podcast (which I had him listen to!) - that Dr. Becky taught him - which was to prepare the kids for the impending disappointment of leaving before the game ends. And it worked! We wanted to prepare them for when we would need to hightail it out of there rather than springing it on them once we got there and dealing with the consequences in the moment. I was proud of him in that parenting moment. And both of us never would have gotten to this point or been proud of ourselves after a night like that nor would I have woken up today feeling so good if we were still in the drinking patterns of our past. I would be feeling only shame and disappointment in my parenting abilities today instead. So once again, even if I feel like I am struggling with my day to day parenting, I know I am doing one thing right. I am sober. I cannot forget that. It's the best and most important decision and improves my life a little bit more everyday, and for that I am grateful.

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1 Comment

Sep 18, 2022

I am a big believer that when we (kids and adults alike) are upset the LAST thing we need is to be pushed away. SO much of what we learn about parenting advises us to do that so of course we all trend that direction at some point. Crying in the night? I need sleep so cry it out. Temper tantrum? Let them have it and go sit in time out.

And the worst part? It really just feeds the chaos. I chose the attached approach (learned after having a baby) of moving towards the person vs away and being interested in helping them solve the problem. I underscroed how much it deepened the connection and relationship. I read somew…

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