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From Childbirth to Childrearing: The Pains That We Forget

Mothers can tell you about the magic that follows childbirth.  The enormous labor pains cease to exist when we hold that beautiful bundle in our arms.  That sweet little face takes it all away and we cannot recreate the pain in our memories.  Which is also why we find ourselves happily planning for another one.  But that’s an article for another day.

 

I’ve been spending a week with my grandchildren and their parents.  I watch the chaos that is part of bringing up tiny people.  I see the meltdowns, gnashing of teeth, and pulling out of hair.  We won’t even discuss what the children are doing to evoke these behaviors.

 

Getting to experience life in a young household as a grandparent, I made a connection.  Childrearing is much like childbirth.  There are labor pains throughout the process.  Those labor pain will make you question who you are, what you’re doing, and why.

 

Am I feeding them the right foods?  Am I teaching them the right things?  Did I overreact in that moment?  Why can’t I get them out the door on time? Why is everyone else so much better raising their kids than I am?  I am failing at the one thing I should be naturally good at! 

 

I remembered being there and thinking all those things myself.  The many times I thought I got it wrong.  The moments where I was sure that I had ruined my kid for all times.

 

Allow me to tell you, you are normal.  Childrearing is exhausting, and often frustrating on every level.  You are learning as you go, not unlike the children you are raising.  Cut yourself a little slack.

 

As the parents of adult children, My husband and I don’t always remember the moments of trial we went through.  We do remember many of the triumphs.  We recall the moments our children learned lessons we were teaching.  We knew they had gotten it when they repeated the wanted behaviors without our reminders.

 

It registered for me that our adult children don’t remember their meltdowns and misbehaviors.  At least not before the age of 4.  That’s the time when children begin to hold onto their memories.  As they grow older, the ability to retain them stabilizes and gets stronger.

 

Take a moment and think back.  What memories do you have before you started going to school?  Probably only those that had emotional significance.  You may have a very sad memory, like losing a grandparent.  There might be a joyful one, like getting a puppy for Christmas.  Beyond those, we don’t seem to be able to access memories of the day-to-day.

 

Along with the development of memory retention comes emotional control.  That doesn’t begin until after the age of 5.  Emotional control does not come naturally.  Children need plenty of help from the adults in their life to develop it.

 

You can teach your child how to handle their emotions with consistent steps. 

 

1.        Help them identify what they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it. 

2.        Give them healthy and productive ways to work through those emotions.  Make them age appropriate.

3.        Give them support to try again when they don’t get it right.  Because they won’t for a while.   

4.        With time and repetition of these lessons they’ll learn to use the tools on their own.

 

It takes as much practice for the adults as it does for the children.  There will be days that you don’t have time to go through those steps.  Forgive yourself for those harried moments. They are only short periods in time.

 

The ups and downs of raising your children will be worth it.  As they grow into the wonderful people they mean to be, you’ll see you did a good job.  Then, like magic, the labor pains of childrearing disappear.  What you are left with are all the best memories.

 

 

 

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