It is said that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. This can be true of those who complain and demand, but it can also be true of those who strive to be honest about their lives and ask for help. And for those who “squeak” in order to be honest and reach out, the grease can be something as small (yet BIG) as a hug or a smile.
I’ve experienced this recently as a mom. Never one to pretend things are perfect or “fine” when they’re not, in the past few weeks I’ve shared with several people my current frustrations with my nine year old son. He’s so negative about EVERYTHING. He complains constantly. He whines over the smallest things. It seems like there is NOTHING he likes to do, and has nothing nice to say about anything. I’ve been worried about him and doubting my ability as a mother. I reach the point of exasperation, wanting to throw up my hands and hide, and pray that this too shall pass.
I’m not unburdening myself with strangers or every person on my contact list, but with friends I trust with knowing many details of my messy life, who I know will support me and/or put me in my place if need be. And what have I learned from my sharing with others? What have I learned from resisting the temptation to present everything as “fine?” As with almost any time when I “tell it like it is,” I have learned –
I am not alone
Each person I shared with, who also have boys, reassured me that my son, while annoying the heck out of me, is completely normal. “It’s because you had the girls first that you’ve been blindsided by this” one friend told me with a smile. You have no idea how relieved I felt, the weight that was lifted off my shoulders and my soul. Freedom from the burden of perfection is an amazing thing! Obviously I’ll still keep an eye on him, to make sure that this behavior isn’t a more serious psychological issue, but knowing it probably isn’t and that I’m not alone in this “adventure” of parenthood is a cause for a little private celebration!
Bottling up our insecurities and issues with our kids (and ourselves) is dangerous to us, and to them. The myth of the perfect mother (and father) is alive and well and SO destructive – and the pressure that we put on our kids to be more like other kids who “look” perfect is also dangerous. We never know what goes on in other people’s homes, how people feel on the inside, despite what they look like on the outside. We try SO hard to pretend everything is fine, because everyone else looks fine. We work so hard at this, and the disconnect between what we show others and what we feel inside sucks an incredible amount of energy out of us that we could be using to actually make things better. IMAGE is destructive – the message we internalize that we have to live up to some ideal is a killer of spirits.
I have felt so much better about myself as a mother, and about my son, since I opened up. I still get frustrated with his attitude. In fact, just a few minutes ago I called him on it – because he walked in the kitchen and barked, “When’s dinner going to be ready. I’m hungry!” But I’m also trying to use some restraint and practice my listening skills when he complains about going to bed, then complains about getting up; whines about the rain, and then whines about the sun. I still search for something I can do, some power within myself or from God that can help him feel better about things – that’s what love wants to do.
But thank goodness I no longer feel like a maternal failure, and thank goodness for my son that I’m not projecting those feelings onto him, or making him feel like a child failure for not living up to some unrealistic vision of the perfect child.
All because I opened my mouth instead of erecting a facade that would eat both him and me alive. The grease on this squeaky wheel feels an awful lot like a healing balm…