Lost

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I am lost.

I am so totally, utterly and completely lost.

I don’t know which parenting book to read first, which website to visit, which therapist to call. I am struggling with the heavy weight of despair closing around me like a cage. It’s not so much my own depression that I am battling – though that war wages on (and on and on), it’s the added weight of feeling lost in my own family.

My beautiful baby girl – Beanie – I don’t think I could feel further away from her than I do right now. I think I have spent more time crying in the last few weeks than I have in the previous few years. I’m sure not having the buffer of the antidepressants makes things that much rawer but I also feel that it is the cumulative weight of my mothering grief that is really pouring out of me right now. Every day there is a new row, a new argument, a new drama to negotiate. Beanie is not yet 6 and she behaves like a hormonal teenager right down to the ‘”I’m not listening!” and the slamming of her bedroom door.

The hubble and I are struggling to understand what happened to our happy, funny little girl. When did this angry, sullen, overly sensitive teenager slip into our home and take her over? When did she decide that the only way to get our attention was to defy, challenge, ignore, scream, shout and push against us continually? Is this what being 5 is normally like? I keep hoping that it is a phase but I don’t think that it is. I had hoped that starting school would help her settle into a rhythm, help her to learn to listen and act as part of a little team. It has not. Her teacher, a lovely woman very experienced in teaching, has told us that Beanie is very ‘challenging’. Tell me about it. But where does that leave us? If a woman who has over 20 years of teaching calls our daughter challenging and finds her difficult to deal with, then what hope have we? We have a grand total of nearly 6 years experience of having children and most of those have been fraught. At least they have for me.

I can honestly say with my hand over my heart that I do not enjoy parenting. It’s not that I don’t love my children. Of course I do. With my whole conditional, demented heart but I do not enjoy the endlessness of this ‘difficult’ phase in my mothering journey. I have been on this road too long and no matter what help I seek, I am still here, still sitting in the shit and wishing it smelled differently. I cannot seem to move away from the sadness and the grief and the enormous guilt that I am forever saying and doing the wrong thing. I say things in anger that make my cheeks sting with shame afterwards. I try to reason with her like an adult, even though I know that she is still so very little. I lack the ability and the tools to know how to manage my angry child and not make it all worse. Not make my own anger and sadness worse. I’m sitting here, sobbing over my keyboard and trying to empty it all onto a page, so that i can at least find some space inside of me to figure out what to do next. Where to go now with my precious, rebellious, angry daughter.

Discipline doesn’t work, time-outs don’t work, consequences don’t work, taking things away from her doesn’t work. We have tried time-in’s but they are not working. I am desperately trying to master active listening, so that she feels heard – God knows with me for a mother and my own rage evident much of the time, she probably feels completely unheard – but I am trying so hard. I truly am.  Nothing changes her behaviour. She is rude and disobedient to us in particular, but it has started spreading to other adults too – her grandparents, her aunty, whom she absolutely adores, and to people she barely knows. I’m only surprised that it hasn’t been more evident at school. She isn’t rude there, just disobedient. And she doesn’t listen to anyone. Not ever. And then we will have a week where very little behaviour is evident, where we seem to have turned a corner and then BANG! for no apparent reason, she overflows with brattishness all over again and we are left standing in the debris wondering what the fuck happened. And I sit there feeling like it is ALL my fault. That my anger, my difficulties with mothering, my impossibly high standards for myself (and therefore probably others too), have just fucked up my bright beautiful little girl and I deserve everything I get. And I’m sure everyone feels like this from time to time but I know how bad it gets here when I am way out of control with frustration and resentment and every little thing sets me off. I am on simmer all the time with this PND and yes, I decided to come off the medication anyway. Mainly because it was simply detaching me even more than I do myself, every time things got tough – which is EVERY DAY. I don’t want to be emotionally disconnected from my children. I don’t want to not feel anything or feel through cotton wool. I thought that it would help, but it didn’t and the withdrawal from even the low dose of SSRI’s that I was on, was phenomenally bad. I will not ever take that kind of drug again. Not ever.

She is struggling and I don’t know how to help her because I am struggling too. I can work through some of my difficulties with my therapist, but what can she do? The only person she really has to talk to is me, or the hubble, and obviously we are the last people she wants to talk to right now. So we have made the decision to take her to see a child psychologist/family therapist. This is a major step for me because I feel so horribly responsible for the whole situation. I am terrified that when I explain honestly to the therapist what has been happening, that he will recommend that Lily be immediately taken away from me. Thus realising my absolute worst nightmare – that I am such a shitty excuse for a mother that I am not safe to be around my babies.

What the fuck do I do? How do I turn this horrible heartbreaking situation around and make it into something good before she hits her teens and we find ourselves in every parent’s worst teen nightmare. I am scared for our family and I am scared for her. This much wilfulness needs to find an outlet that is positive and self nourishing or it will destroy her and everything around her. I know. I’m jumping ahead wildly, she is only 5, but I can see it coming the way a rabbit can see the headlights of an oncoming truck and can’t seem to move out of its way. I am a staring down a semi with ‘out of control Wild Child’ written on its grille. And it terrifies me.

Wildling in the Forest

Wildling in the Forest

If you could see her – you would immediately know how wonderful she is. She is so smart, and so capable and she has such perseverance – she will try something over and over again until she masters it. That’s not to say that she does it with any kind of patience – we have many, many tantrums over her inability to do something initially, but she keeps going back. I know that feeling. I am the same. I don’t want her to be like me. I don’t want her to carry my issues as her own. I want her Spirit to remain intact. I just also want her to understand that in finding some way to express herself that is not defiance or downright rudeness, she is giving herself tools to manage her own volatile emotions and that can only be a good thing.

Didgeridooing

Didgeridooing

But if you did meet her, you might be amazed at how often we have to ask her to do something before it gets done. Or you might notice how cheeky she can be, how inappropriately she often behaves – like flashing her bottom at people for no apparent reason, or at us because she knows it incenses us. Or you might notice that she has seemingly boundless energy, which she more often than not uses to get into mischief or to just push buttons until something snaps and we go spiralling into another argument, another weepy tantrum, another round of screaming and door slamming. Even my patient, kind, playful hubble is losing the plot.

Dancing Queen (from the 1980's!)

Dancing Queen (from the 1980’s!)

When she sleeps, I go and sit by her bed and tuck her into her blankets. I kiss her softly on the cheek and stroke her head or hand and I tell her how much I love her. I tell it to her as she sleeps because I keep praying that in that open unconscious state, she will hear me as she can’t seem to when she is awake. My heart is breaking for our relationship. I don’t know how to move forward with her. I don’t know how to mend all that is broken between us and it is torture and pain and so much sadness I can’t contain it all. I think that I have spent most of the time between school drop off and this entry, crying. I am not someone who cries much. But these last few weeks I have made up for that in spades. I have never felt so ineffectual and there is only so much gentle discipline I can try with my exasperating child before I revert back to the disciplinarian and get angry again.

Me & My Girl

Me & My Girl

I am crying for myself and for her – that she feels so wounded that all we have is this fractured connection. I am crying for my wee Bear who is already picking up on her behaviour and copying it – as he does everything else she does. I am crying for the strain it is putting on my relationship with my beautiful, compassionate husband – and though I know he loves me and trusts me and understands how hard I’m trying, I also know that in his heart, he blames me a little too. I am crying for the nurturing mamma in me who can’t seem to catch a break and who would tear herself in half if she thought it would make everyone happier. I am crying for her because I so want to step into the role of mother and I cannot.  I just don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to travel this path with any kind of grace or understanding. I feel as if I am just swinging wildly from one problem to another with no way of making the pendulum stop.

I keep asking the Great Mystery to reach out a hand to help me. I need some guidance to figure out how to do this right. I don’t expect a life filled with roses and sunsets on the beach but it would be nice to know that there is even a chance I can spend one whole day with my child where we love each other and enjoy each other’s company. One day in which there is no drama, no tears, no anger, no pulling away or withdrawing. One day in which I can hold her hand and see the child she is inside and make her laugh again.

For her and for myself I am asking The Powers That Be – please, please help me. Please show me a way to make this right before it gets stuck in wrong, forever.

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13 thoughts on “Lost

  1. (((Hugs))) I am so sorry for your pain. You are obviously a deeply loving mother who is trying so hard to do your best for your girl.

    All behaviour is communication. But your dear girl is too young to know how to communicate effectively, so it’s now up to you – and the psychologist – to sort through the code she’s laying down in her effort to be understood.

    My instinct – being a complete stranger, hearing this story for the first time – is that maybe you have an overstimulated child with no sense of being held by safe boundaries. Some children are sensitive to every stimuli – physical, emotional, subconscious, stress, visual, aural, touch – it all goes in and they can’t process it so they just explode all over the place. But I could be completely wrong, of course!

    Another thing I’m noticing is that you talk about using gentle discipline, then when it doesn’t work instituting anger-based tougher discipline. That’s not unusual! Some children don’t respond well to gentle discipline. Very firm boundaries set with a cool, clear head, then followed up with definite consequences worked out ahead of time – and no second chances, no negotiation – this is what some children need most. Especially those who don’t have good internal discipline and can’t manage their emotions. I think our current culture of child-centred gentle guidance is wonderful but can also be really, really unhelpful – even destructive – for some families.

    What you need is emotional space so you can sit back calmly and evaluate her behaviour, see what triggers it, listen for what she is saying beneath the actions. But that is sooooo hard when you are in the thick of it! Hopefully a psychologist can give you tools to (a) evaluate your wonderful girl and (b) care for yourself.

    Please excuse this mini lecture from a lurker! It’s my instinct when people are in pain to try to fix it for them. I can see your love for your children shining through your words, and I just want to tell you that, even though you feel like a crap mother for being human, for being pushed over the edge sometimes, you are not crap, you are wonderful and amazing for trying, and trying, and dragging yourself up and trying again. Your daughter is going to be sooooo grateful for you when she is older.

    • Thank you so much for your kindness, Sarah. I appreciate all of your advice and certainly agree with much of it. Consequences just haven’t worked with Beanie – not since Kinder and we and her teachers are finding the same things to be true now. There is not really anything you can take away or deny her that matters to her. It’s odd. I do think that I struggle with gentle discipline but hate my alternative of the disciplinarian – because that approach doesn’t work either. It’s very frustrating because my husband and I are very confused about how to approach the whole thing!
      I am so open to other people’s opinions and to their ideas, so please don’t feel that you were lecturing. To be honest, I’m touched that you and Tammy took the time to respond and to offer advice and words of encouragement. It means a great deal to me.
      Thank you.

  2. Your post is so honest and touching. My first was a strong willed child and everything seemed to be a battle. My mother at one point when she was about four said “You need to give her a good spanking when she acts like that.” and then a second later added, “but then you’d be spanking her all the time.” We’ve had therapy (the two of us) off and on during her developmental years. I would strongly suggest that. Strongly strongly strongly. That gave me some guidance and gave her an outlet. I also had her tested with a trusted neurologist and she was diagnosed with ADHD, a processing disorder (which explained some of her ‘listening’ problem), a sleep disorder and dyslexia. (which added to how she sees the world and frustration and still does and she’s 22). And she is so sensitive as to what others are feeling that at times I was/am sure she just sucked up all the energy around her and fritzed or just shut down to escape. I am anti-drugging your child, but in this case, a friend explained to me that you would medicate your child for asthma or something medical, why would you let them suffer with these issues. Her ‘issues’ only made mine worse. I was suffering from anxiety disorder and depression only didn’t know it and a deteriorating marriage. So, medication worked for us and helped the situation. But I didn’t want to ‘break’ her. She is soooo strong and is a young woman to be reckoned with, a woman who will not be ignored, a woman who will pour out her energy into the world and make it stronger. There are also books (I haven’t read them) about Raising the Strong Willed Child you might look into. It was not an easy journey for many years but like I said, therapy helped tremendously. I will wrap you in my thoughts.
    Tammy

    • Hi Tammy,

      Thank you so much for your kindness. I almost didn’t post this entry – I felt that it was too close to the bone and I didn’t want to sound whingy and all ‘poor me’. Me and my First World problems, huh!
      It sounds as if you have been on much the same journey as I am on. We are trying to figure out if Lily has some attention disorder, though her teacher thinks not, (which is reassuring as there are several autistic/ADD kids in the same class). We have autism and dyslexia on our side of the family (as well as a whole host of other sensory disorders!), so that has been something I have been watching out for, particularly with my wee Bear. Autism affects 70% boys!
      I think the family psychologist may be helpful in figuring out a way to work with Lily’s personality but I just struggle sometimes to make it through a single day without raising my voice to her. I keep trying to imagine what it would be like to live with someone constantly shouting at you and nagging you. It depresses me to do it, so what can it be doing to her?
      I’m glad that your daughter grew up to be strong and still so sure of herself, despite her initial difficulties. I think that this is testament that strong willed kids don’t necessarily go off the rails, if they are provided with tools to help themselves. Thank you for sharing your journey with me and for giving me a little ray of hope.

  3. Your so beautiful Kat, thank you for your honesty, thank you for sharing.
    You baby is only 5 there will be many phases, many changes, many challenges.
    You are doing you best that you can.
    Be grateful to yourself for all the hard work that you do.
    Yes you make mistakes. You are human.
    Let go of guilt.
    What if when you wake up every morning to tell yourself
    Today I want to feel…………………
    Today I want to experience……….
    Set the intention and leave the rest to the universe.
    Your daughter is also doing the best she can. Treat her as you would an adult best friend and let go of what you cannot change. It will always be ok.
    Big love to you Kat.
    I am always available for a chat.
    Nicole

    • Thanks Nicole,
      I’m being so blown away by the comments. And there I was thinking that I was talking mainly to myself!
      Thank you also for your kind, calm words and measured suggestions – certainly it can’t hurt to set the intention for the day in that way. I often simply forget as I get plunged into consciousness by either a screaming, wailing, argument or my 2 year old body slamming me in the manner of an all in wrestler! Difficult to set the intention on a day that starts like that!
      I’d love to catch up for a coffee/tea/Gin – it helps to have a sanity break with thoughtful women like you. Need your number!

  4. google. right now, and find a Transpersonal Counsellor or Psycho therapist in your area. And if you can’t find one of those, find somene that does Acceptance and Commitment therapy. And see if they work with children. And then, take yourself and your daughter to see them and commit time for both of you.

    They will use methods to help both of you with the turmoil going on inside, your mind and your body. WIth bringing mindfullness to it, with recognising it, with teaching you both new ways to traverse it. They will teach you tools to use, to help you. Not because there is something wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with either of you. You are just human beings journeying the difficult path that we journey. And finding a way of helping negotiate that, that is spiritual, gentle, loving, client centred, will help you. I promise. I am a life coach at the end of studying my transpersonal counselling diploma. I am also a mother passioante about her children and gentle parenting. And the methods used are so beautiful and respectful. You do not need to do this alone.

    I am happy to talk on the phone also, if that’s easier, and have a chat. And depending where you are, I may be able to refer you to students for free sessions. And just because they are students, does not mean they are incompetent. The training is awesome.

    If you want to chat more you can email me at sue@thebirthcoach.com.au
    much love to you xoxo

    • Thanks so much Sue.
      I agree that a gentle, mindful approach is definitely preferable. CBT probably wouldn’t work on a child Beanie’s age as it requires conscious recognition of thought processes and then conscious replacement of those thoughts with something else. Bit tricky for a five yr old! The acceptance and commitment therapy sounds interesting though.
      Most of all though, I’m grateful that you took the time to write to me and to offer your support and your advice. I’ve been pretty amazed at the response to this post and very moved.
      Thank you.

  5. Oh Hun, first of all you are amazing for your bravery & honesty! You should seriously look into homeopathy for both your daughter and yourself! I had so many behavioral problems with my son and homeopathy has helped us so much. He was my first and I too thought, maybe I’m just a crap mum. Homeopathy can remove that unexplained anger (sometimes residual from past lives which rears its head at strange times) as well as help you find that inner peace and contentment. I’m not sure where you are located but if you’re in vic (I’m on the mornington peninsula), please get in touch, I’d love to help. Best of luck xxx

    • Hi Jo,
      Thank you! I have actually tried homeopathy with Beanie and myself. Nothing has really worked for us so far. However, I live in the Dandenong Ranges and am often on the Morningon Peninsula for the beach! I’d be happy to meet up and have a cuppa some time. Maybe email me your number, if you are comfortable with that?
      Thanks

  6. Hello My Lovely… I am so sorry you are going through all this I know how much love you have in your heart for your babes and what is really screaming out at me is that you need to give some of that love to yourself. First. Before you give it all away to everyone else and have none left for you. That or a very large G&T, every day. Seriously though, I understand, to a certain degree, what you are facing with the behaviour challenges – we are facing some over here too and the moods swing from high to low and back again over and over – sometimes several times in a day! Chris feels it more than I do though, you two are so very similar.

    I read a book recently, and still have it on my bedside table because i keep going back to it, it’s that excellent, by a guy called Nigel Latta – ‘Before your kids drive you crazy, read this book’. (also called ‘politically incorrect parenting’) . He also has a web site – goldfishwisdom.org that has some great practical and useful stuff that you don’t need a psyche degree to understand and implement with your own children, and it is stuff that has worked with families he has helped time and again – He is a clinical psychologist and family therapist and has worked with all kinds of families in different situations so he knows what he’s talking about. i highly recommend it!

    If you’re free Thursday and want to come down for a change of scenery let me know. Would love to give you an energy balance massage seeing as I have the table!!

    hugs and love to you xoxo

    Trace

    • Hey Trace

      Thanks for those suggestions, I’m checking them out as we speak. I would love to see you guys very soon. This thursday is chock full but maybe next week? Do you want to come up for some sewing?
      Anyway, thank you. You are a good friend.

  7. This was a heartbreaking read… But it had a farmiliar tone as well. My sister was a mirror image of this. Turned out many years down the road, around 16, it came to light that she had been struggling with many years of various forms of mental illness and depression, just clinically, as her life had been fine and not caused any emotional pain — as I’m sure your daughter isn’t either — she obviously comes from a safe and loving home. At 16 years of age my sister began to see a psychiatrist and was put on medication for bipolar disorder, form one. I’m not saying it was easy, but it leveled out. Our parents just wish they’d done something sooner, but they were hoping it was some sort of series of phases…

    Today my sister is a kind, intelligent, loving, nurturing mother of six of her own amazing children. She still struggles and has her moments, but she is happy.

    I hope your struggles become easier. Don’t lose hope.

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