My Biggest Parenting Realization So Far

An Honest Reflection

A variety of people, events, and books have led me to a major epiphany. It’s so obvious, yet I didn’t have the clarity until now:

I can only control myself.

Yes, it’s that simple. Except it couldn’t be more challenging.

I had some time on an airplane last weekend while flying to a wedding in California and spent some time reflecting:

  • I cannot control my kids/make them do things
  • I can only control myself
  • The way I would do something may not be the way my kids would do it
  • It takes ongoing, hard work to control my own emotions so I that don’t escalate those moments when my kids are already emotional
  • Children are just as much people as I am, and should be treated that way
  • Tone and body language matter just as much as my words
  • My own anxiety will make things worse for my kids
  • Worrying too much about my kids may backfire
  • Projecting my own ways/feelings/fears onto my kids is rarely helpful (and could be damaging)
  • When children are acting out, they are likely anxious or upset and need me to be a calming presence, not angry or upset with them
  • What I need when I’m upset is likely what my kids need — support, help, love, and someone who validates my feelings and tells me everything will be OK
  • I need to enjoy my kids more

While feeling a tad overwhelmed, I am also feeling extremely motivated. I can control (with help, strategies, friends, etc.) everything on this list. And by controlling what I bring to the relationship, I know my kids will be the direct beneficiaries. Will it be easy? No. Not at all. Especially in moments like last Thursday when Keener locked me in the garage with him and Grace in the house. The more times I knocked and asked him to open the door, the louder his laugh grew… let’s just say it wasn’t my finest parenting moment. 

BUT, I know I can make improvements.

My last bullet point of reflection was the first place I started. I needed to find ways to enjoy my kids more. Toddlers/preschool aged kids are absolutely exhausting. Their needs are as high as their emotions and the saying, “the days are long but the years are short” has been ringing loudly in my ears. As a result, I needed a mental shift. I needed to view them with a new lens.

Ways To Enjoy Kids More

The following are ways I have been intentionally choosing to enjoy my (needy and emotional) kids more:

  • Do something crazy. OK, crazy is relative. But Keener wanted to sit in Grace’s backwards car seat the other day when it was just him and me driving home. My first instinct was NO. Then I realized, why not? If he fits, it makes no difference. The look on his face says it all. I haven’t seen him giddy like this in a long time. He found it absolutely thrilling. So they next time they ask for something within reason, consider saying yes.
  • Read. Books truly are magical. And so is snuggling. Visit the public library or do a book swap with a friend if you need some new ones in your rotation.
  • Watch something they enjoy. If you can stomach it, join your kid for her favorite show. Watch her face light up when Peppa snorts, or Curious George gets in trouble, again.
  • Clean. I feel better when the house is clean and strangely enough, my kids love to clean.  Let them vacuum, swiffer, sweep, or sort laundry. It will take longer with their help, but working together towards a shared goal is surprisingly enjoyable. And it has the added bonus of setting the expectation that everyone helps with chores.
  • Play. I have been more cognizant about putting my phone down, for even 10 minutes, to get down on the floor with my kids. Building a control tower, lining up trains, and coloring can be surprisingly peaceful.
  • Get dirty. I love to garden, but I hate the idea of having dirt under my fingernails. Naturally, my kids LOVE it. While not always convenient, getting dirty in the mulch, dirt, with chalk, or sand can actually be soothing, despite the dirty fingernails.
  • Sing in a silly way. Sing nursery rhymes in a silly voice. Change the words. Leave words out. Your kids will think you are the funniest person on the planet and there is nothing better than hearing your child belly laugh.

Stay tuned for more ways to focus on you. Let’s take some time to invest in ourselves.


  1. I agree in that we cannot change other people, we can only change how we approach or interact with others which in turn may change the essence of the relationship.

    And yes, permitting a silly request such as sitting in the other child’s backward car seat may be an empowering cooperative move for both parent and child at something so unlikely but important to the relationship. It obviously brought such joy therefore meant a lot to Keener.

    I think the “locked in the garage incident” may have escalated attention-getting behavior to a level of a “power struggle” or even “revenge” behavior. I suppose your “not so finest parenting moment” was a display of your frustration, concern and anger which was a totally appropriate expression of your feelings at that moment. I believe it was also absolutely essential to voice your distress and alarm over what could have led to an undesirable outcome. You were right to “own” and express your displeasure in this serious matter.
    Once again sharing your “parenting woes” gives credibility to your genuine and sincere desire/intentions of helping other parents. I applaud your exposing your vulnerability amidst your trials and tribulations. Thank you for taking those risks!

  2. Love this post so much 🙂 I often feel the same way and surprisingly a lot of the things you wrote about enjoying are things we currently do, maybe minus the getting dirty 😉 I definitely need to be better about doing that and LETTING GO.


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