How to parent yourself

Ambitious blog title, eh? I haven’t got a bloody clue how to do that, but I am interested in finding out. I think there are adults who have managed to reach maturity fairly unscathed and there are adults who simply have not reached maturity yet, even at 35, even at 60.

Even the unscathed grown-ups are still hauling around that inescapable inner child, and though they might be treating them fairly well, now and then they might get a shock when that wayward young one stamps their foot to try to get things to go their own way.

As well as mothering my children, I often notice the need to parent myself, and frankly it is exhausting and I fail at it quite a lot of the time. I get my kids up, dress them, feed them, take them to activities I think they would enjoy (like today, for example. My toddler son had a marvellous time hiding in the shoe cubby-hole while the music teacher sang about monkeys jumping in the bed and the other tots clapped their chubby hands in delight), I read to them. I remember that I actually have to, like, hang out with them also, sans distractions, so I crouch down and try to just think: isn’t this great? Me and my three boys just hanging out, spending quality time together. I try not to think about: the laundry, the dishes, what’s for dinner, have they had enough fresh air today, where have all the socks gone, why is there only one of every shoe readily available just as we are about to leave the house, why can’t I keep my voice light, calm and gentle, should we be doing crafts, are they going to be fucked up, is this enjoyable, really? Is parenthood enjoyable, really? I want to read my book, I wonder if anyone has sent me an urgent What’s app message, is it just me or is parenting three young children shockingly hard, what if this were the 70s, does that mean I wouldn’t have to worry so much about meeting their every need, how is their emotional development coming along, oh crap am I their blueprint for relationships, how long before I can put the TV on, if they play in the street will they get run over, what is the point of cooking dinner if no-one ever eats it, why do I feel so old all of a sudden, do I have early onset Alzheimer’s, how long can I get away with not washing their hair, do they have cavities yet, is hanging out in the living room with them like that movie Room where the mum and kid are being held captive or is it ok to hang out in the living room, should we go back outside again…

These thoughts come in between moments when I snap to and think – Jesus, they are growing so fast, can you JUST. ENJOY. BEING. WITH. THEM. I’m parenting the only way I know how – it’s fuelled by love and incompetence – but the deeper I wade in to their childhoods the more aware I become of the need to parent myself.

Myself has gone absolutely wild with the lack of mothering. No boundaries when it comes to sleeping or eating. Emotions allowed to run unchecked. I haven’t taken a firm hand with myself to even cover the basics. I think I can coast like this for a while but it’s not fun.

If you’ve reached adulthood without any inner anchor of self you have to try to find it. I think you do that by parenting yourself. Trying to understand yourself. Giving yourself what you need, and not simply what you want in that moment. Setting boundaries. Respecting your dreams. Telling yourself No when necessary and equally Yes when it’s called for.

Ultimately, being there for yourself. You have to be, because no-one else really will. You are the mother of you.

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