One of my favorite blog writers had a post last fall that I made a note to write about. In it, she listed her Patron Saints. Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project posed the original question and offered this explanation of patron saints: A “patron saint” is a saint who has a special connection to a person, place, profession, or activity, or in more casual terms, a person who serves as a particular leader or example.
I enjoy answering this question and keep coming back to the same handful of people, plus or minus one or two. The ones that are offering me the most guidance , particularly about parenting right now, are Dr. Laura Markham and Janet Lansbury. Both speak to the parent I’m trying to be, encouraging empathy, connection, regulating my own emotions first (Markham suggests repeating the mantra “It’s not an emergency,” which has worked wonders for me), and a range of solutions about how to work with your child.
I’m leaning on both of them heavily now because E is having a moment where he has begun pushing other kids. It’s interesting because both Markham and Lansbury say that this behavior is developmentally normal. Toddlers have big feelings, few words and no empathy. They are a perfect storm. In correcting and ending this behavior, too, both said that parents tend to take the behavior personally and to think that it’s an immediate comment on one’s (in)ability to parent “correctly” (whatever that means). They are so right: I want to sink UNDERNEATH the sand box when E does it. I have a moment of panic where I completely lose my mind (in my head, at least) as I worry about what to do. By the time I actually get around to acting, the moment is lost and he has no idea why I’m trying to tell him not to push other people.
What finally made sense to me was when Lansbury said to think of myself as a CEO and E as my favorite employee. When he does something wrong, act unruffled and stop the behavior while redirecting. Broken record. Every single time. I don’t know why that piece of advice made sense to me, but for some reason I was able to craft a mental image of the both of us in those positions. (And I also giggled because I envisioned myself in one of those Working Girl power suits from the 80s while E held a clipboard (and maybe a Swingline stapler?). I have an active imagination at times.)
Thank goodness I have these people to turn to. They also, ultimately, remind me that I’m doing my best and that love is always the appropriate response. Then, the Universe sent me some perspective this morning at swim lessons. One parent said her daughter had done the same thing as E is doing now, and that she had felt the same way I felt. How wonderful does validation feel? IT’S NOT JUST ME!!!
And, as we parted ways, she and her daughter gliding along on a noodle while E and I went the opposite direction with a kick board, she called out over her shoulder:
“It’s a phase. It lasted about a month, but it’s a phase. It will pass.”
Amen to that.