I feel like I’m a big failure as a parent. Saying that is painful. Not exhilarating, as it should be because those words are out. It’s heart-breaking. Heart-breaking because I thought that when I eventually had children I would be a perfect example of that “cliched parent” – happy, calm with an amazingly balanced family. My family would not be like the family I grew up in. We would not have hardships, we would not fight over trivial things, my children’s parents would not be fighting all of the time or screaming at the top of their lungs like my parents did. Nope, I would be a perfect mum, pretty, fit, I’d have time for me, I’d be able to easily squeeze everything into my day and not be overwhelmed. I would be graceful and smile if there was a slight problem, because of course we’d have to expect problems from one time or another. But mostly, I’d let those problems wash over me and get onto the nitty gritty of living and really live a happy life filled with happy children.
I waited to have kids. Not waiting through choice. Each year another of my friends would fall pregnant and there I was trying my best to be happy for them and yet breaking down into tears. Crying to my husband “Why are we so unlucky”, “What’s wrong with us”. And then praying to God, “Why are you so unfair?” “What lessons should I learn, I’m ready”? Of course God didn’t answer and my anger just built up at the injustice of it all. Why oh why?. But eventually after six years of trying this and that, I adopted a little girl who brought so much joy to our lives.
But of course all things are balanced so with the joy came the tears and tantrums. And her tantrums were extreme. I wasn’t sure how to manage them. I’ve always thought that she is bipolar and if not bipolar then perhaps ADHD or both together. But man riding out her tantrums was difficult to say the least. They could go on for hours. Screaming, incessant anger, biting, scratching, punching the door down and the energy she had was endless. Her tantrums were the beginning of defeat within me. Have you ever had to rangle with a three year old tantrum?. It’s exhausting, and even more so when we consider that it takes place over a couple of hours. My husband and I begun to argue right about this time about which way was the best way to deal with her emotional outbursts, and his extremely strict authoritarian respectful Asian upbringing was not on par with my liberal western views on raising children. I’d been beaten enough times as a child with my dad’s belt and the toaster cord to know that I was not going to put my children through the same tortuous upbringing I had. I wanted to let them ride out the anger followed by discussion and reflection. That was a good enough plan in theory. But having differing views here has made it difficult to be balanced in our approach to dealing with issues. Then Amber came along followed by Kai.
Three kids wow, incredibly rapturous joy when they get along. When they don’t my house and my mind feels like a mental institution. Annisha is going through precocious puberty, she still has temper tantrums at nine years old, but mostly I can ask her to go to her room and think about her behaviour, but she goes through periods of incredible sadness and when those tears fall they fall like a cascading waterfall breaking my heart because I remember what is was like to be a young girl hitting puberty. On top of that, Amber is showing a very strong defiant streak mostly triggered by not eating at the right time and when that kicks in her tantrums can go on for at least an hour and they are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. She squeals and kicks and carries on, not wanting to take herself off to her room to reflect on her behaviour, nope, she wants everyone in the house to hear her squeals and anger. So that they can give her the attention she needs. And then there is three year old Kai who is also a tantrum maniac. It’s exhausting. Doubling exhausting when my husband and I fight about ways to deal with the tantrums. This is only the tip of the iceberg when I look at my parenting failures.
I read and watch and try and learn about how to deal with them, but it’s incredibly hard. I wonder if it’s made harder by this perfect image of what a family should be, this image that society is constantly placing on us OR IS IT self-sabotaging expectations and standards I have placed on myself. I’m glad to say that when I cry out for help on social media people tell me “yup,it’s the hardest gig out there”. This kind of support helps me to be mindful. It’s not just me!