Last night my husband and I had a flashback moment that hit us both for six and left us baffling to comprehend how we managed to survive the first three years of our son’s life. He is an amazing, intelligent, empathetic, sensitive little boy…but he was really, really hard work. Last night he showed a small example of the behaviours of old…and it was a really confronting and overwhelming moment.
In those early years I screamed a lot. Desperate, wits-end, sleep-deprived, slightly psychotic -screaming. Sometimes it was like nothing would get through to him. He’d just wig out and there’d be nothing in the world I could do to get through to him. Not holding him. Not talking calmly. Not distracting him. Not yelling at him. Not disciplining him. Not comforting him. Not coaching him. Not bribing him. Not offering him options. Not ignoring him. Nothing. He’d just scream and scream and scream. All hours of the night; for hours on end; every day of the week.
Suffice to say by the time three years had elapsed, I was one VERY tired and beaten down person (and obviously so was my husband). My fuse was short, my temper quick, and my ability to keep perspective was limited.
We thankfully found some information and tools that have really helped us to deal more effectively with our beautiful boy, and things are light-years better than they were…but I often (if I’m honest, several times daily) feel pangs of guilt, remorse and resentment towards myself about my “inability” to deal with him more effectively during those early years. In short – I have not forgiven myself.
Looking in from the outside, I’d tell myself that I was doing the best I could and all things considered I was doing a good job. I know my family (who saw glimpses of our life from the inside) would support me, and understand, and tell me they were proud that I didn’t fall in a complete heap. But the “me” that talks in those quiet moments of reflection, says otherwise.
So what do I do? Well, I’m doing everything I can to make it a better “now”. All we have is this moment, we can’t go backwards, we can only move forward. So I want to afford myself the same forgiveness and understanding as I do others. I want to focus on what I did right. I was exhausted. I felt like I was drowning… but I managed to keep my head above water, hold down a solid job, smile (mostly), keep my marriage together, and attend to my child’s every need. I never neglected him and I never stopped loving him. I always picked myself up and started again. No matter how tired, overwhelmed, scared or unsure…I got up and I did what needed to be done.
I’m not saying there weren’t times when I did the wrong thing. Of course there were – I had some real lose cannon moments. But forgiveness isn’t about condoning bad behaviour or forgetting the lessons that are born in those moments. We don’t have to passively accept that that’s just the way things went down or be happy about it. But we can seek to separate the person from the behaviour and know that we are all fallible human beings who make mistakes or who aren’t always equipped with the necessary tools to handle the situation better. Forgiveness is about the person - not the action.
I need to take my own advice more. Let go of the guilt and self-deprecation. Forgive myself for being human. And in turn give flight to today with the lessons (not the remorse) of yesterday under my wings. I truly hope, if you feel like me, you’ll do the same… xo
Have you struggled with forgiveness?