By Nicole Gorring of Integrity Calling
One of my favourite relationship books is “Passionate Marriage” by Dr David Schnarch. In it he talks about two concepts gridlock and the crucible. Gridlock, as its name suggests is the state where you feel completely stuck desperately seeking an escape hatch to avoid using the open door, because to go through the door means going through the crucible, and the crucible requires change.
To paraphrase: Few of us enter parenting to change ourselves. Some just find themselves parents, some plan to be parents, some may even become parents in an attempt to fill a void in their life, but few of us enter parenting in an attempt to change ourselves. Yet if we open ourselves to the option, we can be absolutely transformed into better people by our parenting journey.
There’s just one problem: We have to be open to it. We have to be prepared to face the paradigm shifts, the guilt, shame and sense of judgement, the self-doubt and the doubt thrown onto us from others. We have to be prepared to stand our ground, change our actions and our words, and just hold onto ourselves whilst the entire world around us shakes. We have to go through the crucible.
Think of the crucible as a cyclone or hurricane. The eye is calm, but everything around it is swirling off kilter. Fear, destruction and pain all occur in the ring of the storm, the centre is clear, you can stand in the centre and not feel any of that fear, not see any destruction, not experience any pain. But we all know storms move, so the eye is not as safe as it seems. To get to true safety you have to get out of the path of the storm, which means going through it.
Consider the following statements:
- I had an epidural and it was fine, you don’t get a medal for doing it without pain relief.
- I formula fed and my baby is completely healthy, formula is not poison, and when they are 5 you will have no idea who was breastfeed and who wasn’t.
- My MIL is a nurse and she would have said not to introduce solids at 4 months if it was actually dangerous.
- My parents smacked me and I am thankful it kept me out of trouble. So yes, I smack my kids too.
- Sometimes you have to smack, like if your kid is running out into the road or something.
- You have to teach your kids who’s boss, don’t let them get their own way, otherwise they will be adults who always expect their own way.
- I sleep trained my kids because I know it works, and besides you are no good to them if you are sleep deprived, happy mum, happy baby.
- Some parents have to do CIO or they will have a car accident or get PND because of the stress from sleep deprivation.
- I was circumcised and I’m happy about it, and my girlfriend is thankful too.
What’s the common thread?
They all minimise the effects of something that has been an accepted “truth” that is now proven incorrect, and harmful. They are also always Trotted out whenever anyone asks a question about the related topic, or whenever someone says/shares something evidence based about that topic.
And they are followed with one of these:
- I’m a good mum, who are you to judge me?
- I’m fine/my kids are fine.
- Let’s just all support each other and stop the judgement.
- It’s not abuse, abuse is xyz.
- You won’t change my mind.
- There are kids really being abused in the world, why don’t you focus on them instead of attacking good parents.
- This research is crap.
The first statement comes from the eye of the storm, the false sense of security, the “it won’t hit here” belief that the weather report (or the science) is wrong. The follow up statements come when the parent starts to feel the first few buffets of wind, and hear the thunder getting closer. They are defence mechanisms, designed to allow you to continue to hold the incorrect beliefs as truth.
Now for most parents they might get hit with a few volleys of rain, perhaps some hail. They are soaked, they feel the onslaught, but then the storm dies out, and they go back to their lives, doing what they were doing without another thought. Until the next storm. They continue to repeat this pattern again and again and again, because the idea of going through the storm is too foreign, too scary. they have convinced themselves that they are safe, and will always be safe.
And so we get the Internet. The constant battles of the “mummy wars” and the constant calls to end the judgement, by saying “each to their own” smiling serenely and moving on. As if somehow by not sharing information, and by not fighting for change, we can just wish away the research and continue to live in the old paradigm forever, still able to believe that we are “good parents”.
But we can’t. And I refuse to participate in the calls to do so.
You can call me judgmental and pro-shame all you like, but I will not stop fighting for change because our children depend on it. Yes, that’s right, depend on it. We cannot fix the big things — “real abuse” and “real neglect” — without changing the whole structure of how we view children, children’s rights and their problems. It’s completely paradoxical to try and solve the hard core cases of physical child abuse whilst maintaining a society where it is acceptable and even praiseworthy to hit your child, just as long as you don’t cross some invisible line.
What’s more, other parents need us to stand up and say, actually yes, xyz is damaging, there are alternatives, there are better ways. Because if we don’t, we allow those old truths to remain unchallenged, and who does that help? Sure it helps parents who believe in them feel better, but it doesn’t help them to be better parents. It doesn’t help their kids, it doesn’t help their grandkids or nieces and nephews or the neighbour’s kids. In fact it does the opposite. It lets all those kids down by letting their parents off the hook.
So no I won’t just sit back and say “how you parent your kids is none of my business” because if we want a better world, a better society, then we have to care about how other people parent their kids. So I will continue to hold up a mirror, continue to challenge cultural assumptions and disproven beliefs, continue to fight for your kids as well as mine. Whether you want me to or not.
So next time you feel guilt for something, feel judged by someone, feel shamed by information, feel angry at being challenged on your parenting — use it. Use it to improve yourself, your parenting, your kids life’s. Stop running from the rain, stop ignoring the storm and hoping it goes away, stop getting angry at the storm for daring to make you feel this way, daring to question, and instead walk into it. Walk into those feelings of anger, insecurity, fear, guilt, experience them, and then ask yourself why the trigger made you react this way.
Because it is only by going through the storm, through the crucible, through the judgement and the “mummy wars” and really actually facing them that you can find true peace from those feelings. And then you will be free.