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Working each day at a time...

Change is hard.

They said it takes six weeks for a new habit to form. I tend to think it's not so much about time as it is about mindset. Remembering that you are trying to make a change is probably the hardest part.

I keep finding myself slipping into the habits I am leaving behind. It's a two step forward, one step back situation. It's about developing persistence, reminding yourself to remember each day, only that day. If you can stay on course that day, it is one drop of water on the stone.

When my kids were little, before Bryn and Ari were born, I had very unhealthy ways of dealing with the daily stress of parenting. I would blow up when stressed, I would throw stuff, slam things, and yes, I smacked. I smacked a lot. I smacked every day, often more than once a day. I have a lot shame about that period of parenting, and in so many ways, I see the negative impact it had on the older boys - particularly Erik, who took the brunt of my anger.

Knowing I was doing wrong, I swore every day I'd find a better way. Every day I seemed to fall back into the old habits of just going with the anger, the frustration, and the fear.

It honestly took years. Years of regret, years of apologising to my boys like an alcoholic the night after a bender. Slowly, far too slowly, but slowly I reigned in my behaviour. I found other ways to deal with my feelings. I worked on seeing the world from my boys' perspective. I read books on empathy and acknowledging their feelings and mine. I read books on the stages of development. I sought help from doctors and counsellors to recognise the issues I was having and to find help. To ask for help.

Things changed, but only once I started working one day at a time, one situation at a time. I learned to walk away, then to listen, then to see their perspective, then to empathise. I found ways to talk to them and to breathe to give us all a chance. Finally, I discovered humour. Seeing the ridiculous in a tantrum over cup colour. Seeing my stress over mess that would only happen again tomorrow anyway. Seeing that they honestly believed their world would end if they had to go to bed at the usual time - because, you know, obviously we were waiting until they went to bed to have ALL THE FUN.

My point here is that time alone would not have changed my bad parenting habits. I had to work on my attitude towards the change. I had to accept that I wasn't going to be perfect, that I had to own my failings - it wasn't my kids' faults that I failed to reign in my temper, that was all on me. It wasn't my parents fault for not setting a good example, I remember how it felt to be afraid when their temper rose, so there was no reason to believe my kids experienced different feelings when my temper rose.

Like any change, I had to own my past and move on to my future.

This is integrity, and integrity is my ultimate life goal.

So, the new habits; I acknowledge my back steps and remind myself in each situation what I will achieve and how I will achieve that. Sometimes, I ignore myself, but that is wholly on me.

Change is hard. Change is worth it.


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