Sometimes there are things we mothers keep very quiet. Like when we have a parenting fail. It’s so hard to admit our mistakes, and yet it happens. Like it or not, keeping up appearances is instinctive. And usually wrong. Here’s one incident which I never confessed to any of my motherly friends. I was so ashamed!

Keeping up appearances

The Main Problem: Inexperience

For some reason this day four-year-old Mr J was cross. And I was cross back at him. I was asking him to do something which I thought was reasonable. It may have been to put his toys away. But did he want to do it? No!

At this stage, we had just three children. I was pretty happy with how I managed things with the two older girls, but my response to Mr J was another kettle of fish.

To explain my problem: I grew up in a household with only sisters. This means I had quite big gaps in my knowledge of all things “boy” – and I knew it. Because my mother died when I was young, any the information I had about boys in family life was gleaned from my girlfriends, and the relationships they had with their brothers.

I had noticed big brothers could be very loving and protective of their little sisters. But I also knew little brothers could be incredibly annoying.

And I had one of those annoying little brothers on my hands.

Get Me Outta Here!

So. Back to Mr J this day. I asked him nicely to “tidy up the toys”.

Then, I asked him firmly.

Then, I gave him the normal ultimatum, and still nothing.

He was already in tears, and I was close. I did my usual thing, and asked him to go to his bedroom so we could both calm down. Generally he was happy to do this, because Mr J loved being in his room.

But still he would not cooperate.

So I picked him up from behind, under his arms, to scoot him along to his room for his five-minute time-out.

Which meant his feet flailed wildly in protest all the way through the lounge-room.

Which meant he accidentally kicked one of the heavy, glass doors on the television cabinet.

And it shattered with a huge CRASH into little pieces all over the carpet!

Keeping Up Appearances – with a lop-sided cabinet

I’m not sure who got the biggest fright, me or him. But he did go to his room and stay there willingly at least.

After a little while I went in and we talked about it. I said sorry, and he said sorry as well. Eventually, we went back to tidy his toys together, and he helped me carefully vacuum up the glass.

Truth be told, I was mortified.

While I did talk it through with the husband later, I never told any of my friends exactly how that glass door broke – we kept that cabinet for years and it always did look a little lop-sided. You guessed it. I was keeping up appearances.

Because it was just too hard to admit I was THAT mother, with THAT boy. Sadly, dramas like this kept happening. And I felt like such a failure!

Why do we do that? Why do we mothers go on keeping up appearances, and pretending we have it all together? While all along, underneath we constantly question if we can do this motherhood thing. We wonder if we are making the right decisions as we bring our children up.

And we are even a little ashamed at some things that happen behind closed doors.

What to do when you realize you are keeping up appearances

This is what I’ve learnt: If you sweep the shame under the carpet and ignore it, it doesn’t go away.

There’s been lots of research done about this by Brené Brown. She says “Shame is the gremlin.” Here’s a shortened version of her TED Talk Listening to Shame.

 

As Brené says, in reality, it’s only by facing those horrible moments, and being vulnerable, that you get past them. Because it’s only by admitting your failures that you can take a step back and see objectively. Not only that, as you reflect on what happened to you in your own family as you were growing up, you begin to understand yourself better.

So next time you feel like a complete failure, let me encourage you not to ignore what happened.

Here’s what to do:

  • Think about it the thing you are trying to hide. Reflect on it.
  • Write it down, or tell someone you can trust. You might cry, but tears are alright.
  • Tell God about it. Pray for wisdom and understanding.

By getting to the bottom of the problem, you may find in future you will have freedom to operate differently, and not have to do the work of keeping up appearances, like I did. It took me waaaay too long to learn this!

For the record, Mr J is now an endearing 20-something, who happens to love working with extremely difficult young people. Who would have thought?

What’s your take on this? Do you like keeping up appearances like me?  What have you learnt about being vulnerable?

 

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