** This may not seem like it is related to parenting 4 social justice at first, but it is, I promise. So keep reading!
I had a realization recently that parenting has been very uncomfortable for me from day 8, that’s when my new baby (who is now 12) started crying for hours a day because of what was probably colic. And ever since it has been a journey of mostly uncomfortable moments. I’m guessing that many of you are sitting with this same discomfort too, so I figured I would share. For those of you who have not had this experience, wow, you are blessed! And you will most certainly find your discomfort in other ways throughout your life, so I think this post still applies to you, even if parenting isn’t the source of your discomfort.
Have there been good times on this parenting journey? Yes, definitely; yet they are definitely fleeting. My husband and I like to say that we get one day a month where parenting feels fun, like we are all in the same flow. We’ve learned not to hold our breath though, because the very next day the discomfort is back. Is life easier now than when I had babies and toddlers? Yes, definitely; yet new challenges and opportunities for being uncomfortable are presented almost on the daily. We went from dirty diapers and sleepless nights to arguments over screen time and addressing sneaking and the subsequent lying about it. I know what’s coming too!
There are various ways to handle this discomfort. Buying things is an obvious go to. There are endless things we can buy for our kids, which often bring momentary happiness because of the rush of dopamine, or because they might solve a particular challenge. Have I bought these kinds of things? Yes, I have. Another obvious go to is posting about all the happy moments on social media. Have I made these kinds of posts? Yes, I have. And yes, I often feel better for a moment, again because of dopamine, but it tends to be fleeting.
What I have found to be much more effective at sorting through my discomfort is asking for help from family, from a therapist, and from our community. It is in asking for help that I surrender my control over the situation. I admit to myself and to others that I can’t do it by myself. And then, and only then, am I able to source all the wisdom that surrounds me and is in me. I’m able to tap into the power that I have over my reactions, over my discomfort. When I am in this place I notice that far less often do I go to the fall-back feel good actions of buying things and showing the world how happy we are. I notice I am able to be much more vulnerable - telling others the truth about my challenges. This then leads to more connection because others also have challenges, and many people have similar challenges to me.
I also have found that committing to a spiritual practice has also been extremely helpful. The more I can sit in meditation and in prayer, the more ability I have to sit with my discomfort and to be ok with it, to even welcome it as my greatest teacher. And you know what this does? It has this added side benefit of being able to connect more with my kids on a spirit level. I tend to get distracted by the messes they leave everywhere, by their inability to follow directions, by the ridiculous annoyances that parenting brings with it. However, when I have more comfort sitting with my own discomfort I’m able to sit with theirs too! I can connect with their spirits - the part of them that is shining and creative and seeking and has their very own path to be walking. I have more strength to walk alongside them on their unique path, however messy it is.
Ok, so what does this have to do with social justice? Well, the thing is that when I am able to sit with the discomfort of parenting I have more skill at sitting with the discomfort of social justice learning and action. To learn about all that is wrapped up in the term social justice is certainly uncomfortable, and often even more than uncomfortable, it is downright painful. And then to take action on what we’ve learned can be even more uncomfortable. It means shedding parts of ourselves that we take to be true. It means giving up things that we desperately want to hold on to. It means being able to hear what others have to tell us about ourselves, and then to act on it. It takes courage.
I have no doubt that my parenting path and the discomfort it has presented has gifted me many skills that I need for showing up for social justice. I wouldn’t trade my parenting experience for anything, because it has gifted me with incredible skills, and a powerful heart.
This post also has to do with social justice because each of our kids has a path to take in this life and their identity will greatly shape their path - the color of their skin, the gender they feel at home in, the way their body and mind works, the resources they have available to them, the traumas they have traversed, the country they come from. If we are able to truly be with them as they are, to sit with them through incredibly uncomfortable situations, to have the courage to talk with them about very painful truths, then we are equipping them with the skills and heart they will need to navigate their journey. Each person’s path most certainly requires social justice.
And so, dear parents, let’s sit with our discomfort together and support each other in it. Let’s ask for help, and offer help when we see that it is needed. Let’s let ourselves drop the masks of perfection and happiness, so we can get to the dirt, which is where the truth lives. I know that I’ve appreciated so much all of the people who have gathered around me in my discomfort. And I’ve often been able to reciprocate, to be one of those people who surrounds other parents with encouragement and tips when they need it.
What parts of parenting feel uncomfortable to you? What helps you get through that discomfort?
~ Angela, white, class-privileged mom to boys, ages 9 and 12.
ps. As I write this post I can hear my kids upstairs slamming doors and yelling, "I hate you." Yep. I'm not even kidding.