Those Wonderful Moments of Parenthood

 

We all remember the day our children were born, their first steps, the first time they say mummy or daddy. Then there is that moment when you say goodbye to them on their first day of School. Then all their landmarks throughout their school life and childhood.

Last night we went to see my eldest and his band support a nationally recognised band called Blaenavon. Now I have seen Vialetters play a few times now, each time they get better and better. Then there is my youngest who generally leads the moshing in the audience. Anyone that knows me well, knows that I am an emotional soul. Last night at one point I was overcome with emotion. It was a special moment, the band were playing well and the reaction from the audience was incredible. At that moment I was so incredibly proud of both my boys.

When I was thinking of writing this I started looking at some pictures of my boys through out landmarks in their and our lives. If I say so myself  we have done a pretty good job.

There are times when you are bringing up your kids the way you think is best, and it just doesn’t seem to be working out. Some days they just behave like little shits, and you wonder what you are doing wrong. You are not doing anything wrong, you are trying your best to do the right thing. There is only one thing worth asking, is your behaviour in line with your values? Are you being true to yourself? If you are crack on, no one said it was going to be easy. But I tell you what the rewards are pretty high. All those early mornings stood in the rain watching your boys play football or netball, listening to them read the same stories you read at school, being knee-deep in shit and vomit, are all worth it.

As Brene Brown says (of course I was going to mention her) be the adult you want your children to be.

Below is a bit of self-indulgence, to let you know how proud I am of my boys. Have a look through some of your photos and remind yourself what a good job you have done.

Memories of Leaving Home

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Earlier in the week, I was talking to my eldest son about his University application, where he would like to go and what he would like to read. I do love our conversations, especially the ones that take place in the kitchen, whilst we are both busy doing stuff. It seems the more involved we are in doing stuff, the more honest the conversation. In terms of transactional analysis you would say it was an adult to adult conversation, rather than a parent to child. As we talked we got onto how his friends that have just left for University are getting on. It was clear that there is mixed experiences, with some really struggling and others getting on and embracing the experience.

That got me thinking about 29 years ago when I left home to come to Hull to start my Nurse training. I wanted Ben to know that, the worries his friends are having are normal and almost certainly transient.

For the whole of the first month being in Hull I wanted to go home, most days I sat in my room and cried. Now it wasn’t Hull that was the problem, far from it I loved (and still do) the place, the people and the hospital. If I could have transported my friends and family, this place would have been perfect.

The issue was coping with the transition of my old life to this new life without my Mum, Sister and my friends. I remember suddenly feeling very young and useless. I know my Mum had prepared me for leaving home and had shown me how to use a cooker, a washing machine and an iron. But all those lessons left me the minute she waved me goodbye. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing I was lost.

The minute those hormones start surging through your body when you hit puberty you start pushing against your parents in preparation for being an adult. You start insisting that your parents treat you as an adult, that they give you the freedom you deserve and accept that you can make your own rules now. Then on that long journey to University or in my case School of Nursing, you start to panic. Shit this is it, I’m not ready to be an adult yet!

That was the feeling I had for the first month, the reality of this is it I am moving to my new beginning.  William Bridges would describe it as me moving through the neutral zone between leaving my old life behind and forming my new life as a Student Nurse. It was uncomfortable. I made loads of mistakes, like washing a new red t-shirt with all nearly all of my other clothes. As a result nearly everything I wore was pink! I remember eating cold tinned meat and beans, because I didn’t want to look stupid in front of me new friends in the communal kitchen.

I now realise all this is normal and most people go through this pain and discomfort, those that don’t probably didn’t leave home.

After the first month it started to get, I got friendly with some other men in residence that were a little older than me, who taught me how to cook and gave me the space to be me.

A few years later I spoke to my Mum about this time and she told me it was like having her arm cut off saying goodbye to me. I have spoken to other parents who describe that feeling as some kind of bereavement. I so relate to these feelings, as the thought of Ben leaving home next year makes me feel very emotional. It is the same process as described earlier, us parents have to travel through that neutral zone between our old life as parents of children to our new life as parents of adults. We always look back fondly on being a parent of young children and them being dependent on us. Our new life requires us to be interdependent with our adult offspring. We have to learn how to belong in our new life. It is uncomfortable but at least I will never have to sit on my bed crying into a can of cold stewing steak wishing I had paid more attention when my mum was teaching me how to cook.

A message to all of us, it is uncomfortable but so worth it, hang on in there, we are all feeling it together.

The Shame of Being a Parent

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I don’t know about you, but in our house for the past 18 years we have had almost daily discussions on our parenting skills. We would often fall in to the trap of comparison, especially when our children were younger. Everyone seems to be doing it better than us. “Tabitha and Timothy at soft play are always polite and quiet, never ask for sweets, and are always eating carrot sticks and drinking kale and beetroot smoothies.” My wife would exclaim, whilst our 2 would either by clinging to our legs, nattering for sweets, or kicking the shit out of each other. When we did relent and by them a fizzy drink and some sweets, it would be like buying a football hooligan 10 pints of Stella Artois right before a crunch match. When I say we relented I really mean I relented, and would then have to brave the judgemental looks and eye rolling from all the mums around me, whilst trying to manage a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old completely losing their collective shit (I miss though those days). My theory was and is that Tabitha and Timothy were so lacking in sugars that they just didn’t have the energy to misbehave.

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When you are in it, doing battle trying to acquire some control and bring your kids up with a sense of right and wrong but have fun on the way your fail to notice that your kids are normal and everyone else’s kids are just as demonic as yours. All you feel is shame when your child does an impression of a screaming ironing board down the cereal aisle in Asda. You feel shame because society says that children should be seen and not heard, good well brought up children do not have tantrums in public. This is backed up by the looks of disgust and judgement you get from people.

I remember collecting one of my children from nursery. As we did everyday we went home on the bus. On this occasion he was tired and grumpy, and no doubt just wanted to go home and sleep. But he was 2 and was unable to quantify these feels and articulate his expectations to me. So he did what 2 year old’s do. He screamed at the top of his voice whilst trying to  loosen my grip on him. The more I tried to calm him down the worse he got. By this point the whole bus was staring at me. I could hear people passing judgement on my negotiating skills, I could feel there stares burning into the back of my head. In the end the shame got too much and I got off the bus about half a mile away from my house. That was a long and painful half mile. Saying that he did fall asleep in my arms, carrying a sleeping 2 your old for half a mile is not easy though.child-3089972__340

Now my boys are young people, I now see that really they are no different from any other children really. Supermarkets, buses, trains, town centres are full of kids losing it and parents experiencing that shame. If you are a parent of a young person and have survived that shame and you see a fellow parent going through this pain, give them a little smile. You know that smile that says I feel your pain, you are not alone, you are not a bad parent. We picked up our shame from our parents, we don’t have to pass that shame onto our children.

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If you strive to be the best parent you can be, there is a very simple question to ask yourself. Are you the type of adult you want your children to become? If your answer is no, or ooh, erm, maybe, then perhaps you may need to address some of your behaviours so you start living up to that person. It is worth look at the gap between what your family values are and our behaviours. If you tell your children to be tolerant and not to lash out when someone upsets you, and then they see you berate the dickhead that cut you up at the junction, then they see that you don’t live up to your values so why should they. Now don’t get me wrong you don’t have to become overnight angels, but you maybe do need to be open and honest about proportionate responses and consequences. If you swear at the news don’t be surprised when they do.

Maybe be a good parent is being the person you want them to be.

I have a coaching program that helps you raise your self-awareness and connect with who you are, which then helps you be the best parent you can be. I also have a 2 hour talk on connected living that invites you to connect with yourself before connecting effectively with others.

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If you are struggling in the mire of parenting and cannot see the wood for the trees, get in touch.

matt@mattycoach71.com

 

Connected Living

Connected Living

Over the past month I have been working on a new program of coaching. Looking at all the research about effectiveness (both personal and team) it seems that trust, connection and empathy appear to be vital.  Therefore I started to put together a program that brought together these ideas from, drawing on the work of Brene Brown, Martin Seligman, Steve Peters, Stephen Covey, Myles Downey, and John Whitmore.

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Connected Self

The first part of the program explores how you connect with yourself. This looks at what drives our wellbeing and provides a quick wellbeing health check using Martin Seligman’s PERMA framework. We then look at what makes you feel vulnerable and what drives that. Next we will explore your beliefs, and values and you will be invited to start to work on your personal mission statement, based on your values and what you what to impact you want to make on yours and others lives. Now you have explored your beliefs and values we can then return to your vulnerabilities and understand what triggers these vulnerabilities and drives you to think more emotionally than rationally, allowing you recognise when you are thinking with your emotions. We will then discuss your behaviour preferences, so where you get your energy from and whether you prefer to think things through using data, or whether you prefer to react on what feels right for you and others, or whether you can switch dependant on the context of what is going on. Once you start to understand how and why you do things, or not do things, you will then start to appreciate and understand your whole self. When you are self-aware you are much more likely to be able to connect more effectively with others.

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Connected to Others

Once  you have started to connect with yourself you can then start to explore how you connect with others. Firstly we will look at how you manage your current relationships by asking questions based on Brene Brown’s BRAVING framework. This can provide you data for setting your goals and action planning. We will then explore how much of a coaching approach do use when communicating with people around you, do you like to explore what they want and help them find the way to do achieve it that suites them best or are you someone who prefers to tell them how to do it, based on your experience so they can avoid all the mistakes that you made on the way. Based on your beliefs and values we will discuss what you value in the groups and teams you populate and what causes you discomfort. Now you have collected your data we can now explore and set your goals for improving your connections or creating new ones. I will then support you through action planning and reviewing progression.

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Loss and New Beginnings

Once you are connecting more effectively you will be in a much better position to manage change within your personal or work life. Drawing on some of the work of William Bridges we can explore how you manage your transition from the old way of doing things towards your new beginnings. We will look at the feelings that emerge during this transition and the effect that has on you and your connections. Again we will set goals for you to achieve to realise your new beginnings

If you are interested in connected with yourself and others email me matt@mattycoach71.com

 

Further Reading

Brene Brown: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. London Penguin Life 2012

Stephen R. Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. London, Simon & Schuster 1999

Prof Steve Peters: The Chimp Paradox; The Mind Management Programme for Confidence, Success and Happiness. London, Vermilion 2012

Myles Downey: Effective Coaching. London, Texere 2002

William Bridges; Managing Transitions; Making the Most of Change. London, Nicolas Brealey 2008

Martin Seligman: Flourish. London, Nicholas Brealey 2012

 

 

Being a Parent

Being a parent is a privilege, on the whole it is wonderfully rewarding experience, watching your child grow, and develop.

However it is also exhausting, stressful, and sometimes terrifying. We are after all hard wired to protect and nurture our children, we can’t help it we just do it.

When our children are young we develop eyes in the back of our heads, and survive on a few hours sleep (mums especially). This behaviour can be confused as neurosis. We all remember that look on the GP’s face when they see you in the surgery for the tenth time in a month with baby David’s rash, cough, funny eye, etc, etc…

Then before you know it they are starting school and you turn into a blubbering wreck. This doesn’t last and soon you start to relish school, some of you live the time to get back to work others relish the support network that develops at the school gate. You start to connect with you fellow neurotics. It is they say good to share your pain.

This network can be a double edged sword, with stress and anxiety creep in when you realise that Tabitha and Sebastian are on a higher reading book than Dave, and Sebastian is tipped to be the next David Beckham playing for the local under 7s. You start taking David to football, horse riding (good for balance), chess club ( intellect), and Guitar lessons (he could be the next Ed Sheeran). Your exhausted, Dave is exhausted and to be fair he is shit at all of them.

Within a blink of an eye your child is leaving Primary School and heading of to High School. And you thought starting Primary School was stressful!

The first 2 years at High School are fairly benign. Then puberty hits! This coincides with GCSES. You might call it a perfect storm. Hell on earth is more like it. If you have boys (I have boys so it might be the same with girls, I don’t know) the first thing you notice is the smell. They start to sweat a lot! Then they stop talking at length and barricade themselves in their room, making the smell worse. Every now and again they will come down, so you ask them how school is going, how is revision going, what subjects might they want to study in 6th Form. You know show an interest in their lives. Big mistake you get accused of interfering in their lives and interrogating them. So you answer back and before you know it you are in the midst of a full blown row, started by asking how they were!

Then they go and do something that stops you in your tracks, that might be something kind and thoughtful, or pass their exams, or produce something amazing. Your heart swells and you remember how proud you are and how much you love them.

As they get older you spend less time in contact with them, but the same amount of time worrying about them. There comes a time when you realise that they are not children anymore, and your role as parent is going to change, and pretty soon it will be more of a distant role. I am at the start of this stage and let me tell you emotionally it is draining. I am having to come to terms with a change in the way I support them, and it is hard.

Each of us is going to experience parenthood differently, and parenting one child is different from parenting the next. So everyday as a parent is a pioneering day. We are always on virgin territory, we are never going to be experts in parenting. Just when you think you can apply what you have learned from experience, you child bowls you a googly.

So give yourself a break, stop comparing yourself to your friends and family. Every family is unique. Also remember your child is new at this too.

If your are stressed and tired, but feel so proud that you could burst then you are on the right lines.

Enjoy your journey, you only travel this way once.

Unashamedly Proud Dad and fan

On 2nd January 2018 saw me and Lisa at the Sesh in The Polar Bear, Hull watching our eldest son play bass with Vialetters.

Now this is the third gig we have seen them and only the 4th they have played.

What a triumph it was. Easily the best gig they have played. They grabbed the attention of the crowd with their new indie pop anthems Dopamine and We Found a Dog. It was as if they had been gigging for years.

They played 7 songs in total and had the crowd buzzing throughout. The host of the evening was rightfully gushing about their performance. Look out for Vialetters in 2018, definitely a band to watch. I know I’m biased but all those in the crowd cannot be wrong.

Check out their new song on sound cloud.

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Snowflake Generation

I have heard talk in the media describing my children’s generation as the snowflake generation, implying that they have never had it so easy. This is a statement that I heard when I was in my late teens, along with ‘the young nowadays don’t know they are born’…..’they would have never got away with it in our day.’

In many respects life is increasingly easier as each generation passes. In the West we are more prosperous than our parents and grandparents. Life is physically safer.

However the young generations are faced with other risks that just were not present when I was growing up.

The thing is our brains have evolved to protect us from danger and cannot differentiate between real and implied danger. This is a problem in a world of social media, and 24 hour news. Our children can be exposed to real and perceived threat almost continuously.

Now I am not saying they are any worse of than previous generations, just that learning to be an adult is full of hazards. It always has and always will. So let’s not compare their life with yours.

Let’s support our children to be the best adults they can and cut them some slack.