My blood pressure is at it’s boiling point. My vision is becoming tunneled and it feels like someone is pulling down the shades inside of my head, making everything turn black. I’m shaking, hunched over the kitchen sink with my eyes closed while I take deep breaths and silently count to ten.
All the while, Mason, my newborn, is crying in the other room while Ava runs through the kitchen wielding a pirate sword that she stole from Charlie. She trips, falls and bangs her chin on the floor in the middle of taunting him–she’s now a heaping mess. Charlie is only a few steps behind, screaming like the monster from the Blue Lagoon, his legs and hands covered in shit–the art of potty-training having gone seriously awry.
Does this feeling sound familiar to you? Do you have moments where the wheels have completely come off parenthood?
It’s not ALL the time, but I certainly have my moments in which I realize that I need to pull back, I can’t overreact, yell, curse or lash out. My kids won’t understand that. It won’t help them understand why I’m upset… and it doesn’t set a good example.
These thoughts were fresh on my mind last month, as I took part in an all-day summit to kick off my second year of involvement with The Century Council and their Talk Early campaign. As I’ve said before, #TalkEarly encourages parents to create a solid foundation for starting conversations with their kids from an early age about the consequences of underage drinking and empowers parents to model healthy, balanced behaviors regarding alcohol.
As part of the summit, we were invited to attend a lecture by Julia V. Taylor at the TCC Headquarters in Virginia. Julia is not only a K-12 certified school counselor and author of several books about teen bullying and the social/emotional development of adolescents, but she also has a master’s in Psychology and is pursuing her doctorate in counselor education.
Julia engaged us about the basics of the adolescent brain and the correlation between the pre-frontal cortex and self-control. She used words like hippocampus and amydala and how they directly relate to things like emotional memory and aggression. She also spoke about the anterior cingulate cortex, which manages your anxiety and decisions. Mine probably looks like a soda machine that’s been hit a few times with a baseball bat.
NOTE TO SELF: HAVE MY AMYDALA CHECKED AFTER RECENT EPISODES INVOLVING PEOPLE THAT CAN’T DRIVE IN THE SNOW.
She talked about how most kids generally begin finding their place in the ‘social puzzle’ around the age of eight. That was food for thought.
I can’t even remember being eight years old. Was I really trying to ‘be cool’ or ‘fit in’? I only remember having certain ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ and depending on how many other kids felt the same way, either you were cool or weird (that was me) because you had an obsession with National Parks and the space program.
But this all seemed to be making sense. Given the amount of technology at our disposal, coupled with thousands of media outlets and sources that promote certain looks, body images and behaviors–it would seem to me that being eight years old isn’t what it used to be. She explained that finding a niche is vital to adolescent development and that peers will help define who they are; ‘belonging to a group sets the tone for their everyday experience’.
She also addressed the issue of body image and ‘fat talk’, specifically how it affects women, but men are included as well. We get pounded with reality shows and tabloids that show supermodels in swimsuits and boys grow up thinking that we should look like we’re cut from stone, playing the xylophone on our abs while washing the Lambo.
This video speaks for itself and it’s certainly something I’ll need to be conscious of as I raise a daughter.
The other video that Julia showed us, seemed to resonate with me the most.
It seems to have originated in Australia, from a group dedicated to preventing child abuse. They push the envelope, but it certainly delivers a powerful message.
As I mentioned at the top of this post, I’ve been thinking about how my actions might be perceived by my kids. No, not necessarily talking with my mouth open or farting in the shower and then cheering for myself, but rather how I handle stressful situations, etc. I’ve been thinking about how sponge-like my kids are, how they absorb all of my positive and negative actions and energy. It’s a reminder for me to work hard each day at being a positive role model and make good decisions about how I handle myself…even if I feel like the only option is putting my head through a sheet of drywall while crying uncontrollably.
I think it’s pretty obvious how alcohol consumption works it’s way into this conversation. Monkey see, monkey do. Not that I’m calling my kids monkeys, wait…maybe I am, I don’t know. The point is that as parents, we need take a minute and think about how we appear in our kids eyes. So much of who they are now and who they’ll grow up to be is lifted from us.
The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.
If you’d like to learn more about Julia V. Taylor, follow her on on Twitter @JuliaVTaylor.