I have come up with a name for my parenting style. It's not based on any behavioral science. You won't find any books on it or any articles anywhere. Well, except for this one.
My parenting style is called "Embrace Your Shame Parenting." This means you experience shame about your crappy parenting on an hourly basis. And you have no choice but to deal with. This means, feel like shit and move on. Most of my parenting experiences devolve into shames spirals of: "I suck at this, I'm screwing my kids up, someone please stop me now." Everything I do (scream them to sleep) or don't do (less than Weelicious-worthy lunches) makes me feel like shit. It's an endless cycle of being an asshole, feeling like crap and hating myself for it.
But who can live in a constant shame spiral and expect to feel good about themselves? How can one possibly recover and collect themselves with enough dignity to then be the parent you want to be? Not me.
I decided that rather than fighting the shame I feel around the lame-ass parenting moves I make, I should just surrender to this fact and let it be. I'm going to suck—correction, I do suck—but it's OK. What's so bad about sucking? You can only go up from there. I will say, like all scientific experiments, it's taking a while for my technique to kick in. Last night I lost it on my kid after two hours of running out of his room at bedtime until he finally cried himself to sleep. This morning I am still suffering the aftershocks of how I handled it.
Stupid stuff just fall out of my mouth like grandpa trying to eat without dentures.
Embracing shame around your parenting is awesome, if you can do it. Brené Brown, vulnerability scholar, author, research professor and superstar has written several books on the topic of shame and vulnerability. There is nothing more liberating than just hanging in a space of, "Wow, I fucked this moment up big time," but it's OK!
And I'm tired of feeling guilty. I've given an iPad at bed time because I couldn't deal with trying to get a kid to sleep one more second. (And that's on a good day.) I've threatened to take them to school naked if they don't get themselves dressed.
Actually, I say a lot of crazy stuff, stuff you can't take back—sometimes in scary voices: "I'm locking you in your room if you get out of bed one more time!" Forget that the door is so old that it doesn't even close, let alone have a lock on it. Stupid stuff just fall out of my mouth like grandpa trying to eat without dentures. The moment of shame starts as I'm saying or doing said crap parenting move. It doesn't even hit me later.
As I am dropping the F-bomb, the shame starts: I'm causing irrevocable damage, my son will become a murderer, my daughter will become a prostitute or worse, an Art History major like myself.
Or it's bath time and the kids are soaking the entire bathroom with Super Soakers. From the bottom of my toes comes a depth-of-the-soul scream. "You gotta be F-in kidding me?!!" As I am dropping the F-bomb, the shame starts: I'm causing irrevocable damage, my son will become a murderer, my daughter will become a prostitute or worse, an Art History major like myself. Allowing parenting shame to control me only makes me feel more shameful, idiotic and angry. It's a vicious cycle. It makes things worse. More anger, more out-of-control parenting. So I stopped.
I drop a few F-bombs ... Big fucking deal. I make up some ridiculous thing about teeth turning black and falling out if they are not brushed. Who cares? I cannot tell you how relieved I feel. I am not numbing my shame in nightly pints of ice cream. Because I let it go.
The one thing I do is I always discuss it with my kids. I apologize, which teaches them that it's OK to get it wrong and to be vulnerable. "Hey guys, I am so sorry I screamed or said this or did that. I feel awful and I hope it wont happen again. But it probably will." And then I'll apologize again, this time smothering with kisses. "Maybe one day I'll get it right, but for now, I'm doing the best I can. Now go the fuck to sleep."