Confluence: An act or process of merging. A coming together of people. A flowing together.
There is a confluence of events happening in our home right now. It involves three things: The Terrible Twos. Adolescence. Perimenopause. All happening at the same time, under the same roof. For the sake of his sanity, there are times when I am thankful for my husband that he works long hours outside the home.
I have done zero research about the hormonal changes that go on in a toddler as he approaches his second birthday, but I would bet money that something similar to puberty is going on there. I have vague memories of going through this nine years ago with my daughter. Since I actually remember my own unreliable moods and total annoyance with all things parental during puberty, I know for sure there are hormones involved when my 11 year old rolls her eyes at me. Since my own mother left when I was 15 and she was 38, I missed her forties and I don’t know how they were for her, or how they would have been had she been going through perimenopause with children around. Only in the last few years did I really come to understand that it is actually the decade or so leading up to menopause – perimenopause – that can be so challenging. More than a few friends and family members in their fifties and sixties have told me that once you finally get through perimenopause and actually become menopausal, things calm down hormonally and get more even again. I was by no means old when I had my daughter at 32, but if I’d had her at 22 perhaps we wouldn’t have been going through hormonal changes at the same time.
All this is a good reminder to be especially patient and understanding – compassionate – not just of my children but also of myself.
I am deeply and unapologetically merged with my children, both the adolescent I birthed and the almost two year old whose eyes I gazed into for the first time when he was two days old. They need me so much and, some days, they are determined to resist with all their might everything I try to do to help them. I know that is exactly how it’s supposed to be, that children of all ages push against boundaries as a way to stretch and learn and grow fully into themselves, and that my job is to maintain those boundaries in a consistent and calm way.
(Moment of pause to emphasize the word CALM.)
I’m pretty much 100% sure I pushed against my parents’ boundaries too. I know I argued plenty with my mother as a child. My father told me, years later, that he never understood why my mother would keep an argument going with me rather than nipping it in the bud early and saying something like, “Because I said so, end of story,” which was my father’s more common response. I think he sensed that there was only so far arguing with a child would get him.
So I recite this mantra: I will not have an argumentative relationship with my daughter. Sometimes I succeed, other times I’m less successful. Because, wow! Adolescents can sure be relentless. I understand now why my father would tell the younger me that I should become a lawyer. My daughter may physically take after her father, but I think he’s got a point when he says that, at her core, she really takes after her mother.
I need a new mantra, though. Because I will not have an argumentative relationship with my daughter is filled with triggers: The trigger of my own complicated relationship with my mother; the illusion that I can be exclusively in charge of our relationship if only I can keep my cool all of the time; the reminder of just how alike my daughter and I are. And the words in this mantra focus on what I don’t want, not what I do want. What I strive for with both of my children is that flowing together that confluence can bring.
We are at our best when we are flowing together, and thankfully those moments are abundant too. When
we I can laugh and remember not to take ourselves myself too seriously – because I am the leader, and my children look to me for guidance – we flow better together. When I take time out to breathe deeply and notice I am being triggered, we flow better together. When I am able to be as kind, gentle and patient with myself as I can be with my children, we flow better together. That’s not always easy – I think as mothers it is really easy to default to condemning and criticizing ourselves during our not-so-fine moments. But that’s when compassion towards ourselves is most important, and it’s that compassion that we can then share with our children.
After an especially emotional day recently, I told my daughter what I appreciate the most about days: That each one ends and the next morning, after a good night’s sleep and with a clear head, we get to start fresh. Every single day, for all of our lives. In our home, when we know we could have behaved better, we practice the fine art of telling each other we’re sorry. Parents included. To me, that is huge, because I know my children will grow up knowing that everybody makes mistakes, and everybody is worthy of forgiveness. I adore my children. When we are flowing together – and even at times when the crescendo in the kitchen reaches a louder and higher pitch than any of us intended – the constant that is always there, no matter what, is LOVE.