Updated: May 20, 2022
Earlier today I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a post that said:
"Do not let your storm get your children wet."
I immediately "liked" the post, and I totally jumped on the bandwagon. "Yes!" I thought. "Whatever issues you have as a person should not affect your parenting or your children."
So, I "liked" and commented and then I went on my way.
Except- I kept coming back to that quote. I'd be sitting there, trying to focus on my assignment for grad school, and there it would be…
"Do not let your storm get your children wet..."
I would quickly realize that I was not in fact focusing on completing my already overdue task, so I would push the thought out of my mind and keep working.
Or I would be on a Zoom call, focusing on my side gig, and it would creep in again…
"Do not let your storm get your children wet..."
And the more I thought about it, the more I hated it. Because our storms are what make us who we are. And while we don't necessarily want to let our children know EVERYTHING about us quite yet, (we can just skate on past my wild teenage years) it is important that our babies know us. A family is a team. You have to know your teammates to play your best game.
One of my "storms" is Anxiety.
I started thinking about how ashamed I would feel when I would be crying on the bathroom floor, unable to get up because I felt trapped by anxiety. I distinctly remember having anxiety attacks and sobbing, feeling completely helpless. I remember feeling like I was failing my kids because I wasn't able to keep it all together, which would in turn make me cry even harder. I would think things like:
"Good moms don't cry so their kids can hear them."
"If I was a good mom I would be able to hold it in until they went to bed."
I would cry and cry and cry. And then, I would eventually pull myself together. I would sit up and wipe the mascara off my face, and I would see a note slipped under the door.
"I love you mommy"
Or I would open the door to hugs and kisses and cuddles.
Or I would come out and see my mom pulling into the driveway, because my oldest would call and tell her that I needed her.
And the whole time, my storm was getting my kids wet.
But I worked on myself, and I grew. I realized I needed a little extra help to not feel so crippled by anxiety. And my kids watched me.
I am almost 100% certain that none of my children would be able to verbalize the fact that their mom became a more calm and collected version of herself over the years. That doesn't matter. They saw me grow and they grew with me.
Of course, I am not perfect. With four kids you have to be an absolute saint not to fly off the handle every now and again.
On the 4th of July I had one of my moments. We were supposed to leave for fireworks at 6:45. My husband was working, so it was just my three youngest and me. It was 6:40 and the car was not packed, the coolers were not ready, I couldn't find a safety pin to keep my shirt in place, and my daughter insisted on either being held or holding onto my leg, whilst being dragged across the floor.
I was so obsessed with the idea that the festivities needed to go perfectly according to schedule, that the looming notion that I was losing all control of that set me off.
"UGGHHHH I AM SO FRUSTRATED! NOTHING IS GOING RIGHT! THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. I CAN'T DO THIS. FORGET IT."
I yelled. I had my hands in my hair and I was rubbing the sides of my face, almost like I was trying to squish the frustration out. I knew I had lost it and the old feelings were creeping in.
"Good moms would not behave this way"
"Good moms would have prepared better and would have already had the car packed"
My two middle boys came up next to me.
"Mommy, what can we do?"
"NOTHING. THERE IS NOTHING ANYONE CAN DO. I JUST HAVE TO DO IT ALL MYSELF."
I walked outside to try and figure out how to get the wagon folded up and in the car while my 16 month old maintained her death grip on me. After about 5 minutes I was pretty sure I could hoist it up into my trunk with my foot and my left hand without breaking it or dropping my new growth, a.k.a, my toddler. After the small success of wrestling the wagon into the trunk, I went into the garage to look for the coolers. Instead, I found my 8 year old and my 6 year old with two coolers next to them. The drinks and snacks were packed, and the ice tray from the refrigerator had been dumped inside to keep everything cold.
"The coolers are ready, mommy!"
Now, maybe those two would have naturally come by the ability to recognize someone who needed help. Maybe the idea to jump into action and think selflessly would have been something that they would have just known innately.
Or maybe, since my storm had once gotten them wet, they grabbed an umbrella.
Maybe because of my vulnerability around them, and the growth that they have witnessed as they have gotten older, they knew what to do to help make the situation better. They knew how to help their mom, their family, their teammate, when things got tough.
Anxiety is one of my storms. And maybe yours is something different. I am not saying that we should throw our kids into the eyewall of the hurricane and hope they find a life vest.
What I am saying is, we are our own biggest critics. And the people who love us will say:
"Give yourself grace"
"You're doing a great job"
"Your kids are lucky to have you"
But when we see quotes that are meant to make us feel like we are inadequate because we are not the "right" type of parent- they have an impact. Thoughts start creeping in that tell us we are not good enough. That we should be better. That so-and-so would never act this way in front of her kids.
We have to be better than that. We have to stop shaming and comparing our lives to someone else's. Our stories are all different, our struggles are unique.
It is okay if your storm gets your kids wet. You are an imperfect human being. And that is exactly who you are meant to be. Your kids need YOU. The actual you. Not the version of you that society says you should be.