I was late for Therapist 2.0 this morning. Driving the N59 is like playing Mario Kart at the moment – never ending and permanently moving roadworks. I hate being late. I also hate being early. I like to be just on time. So before the session even started I was on edge, flitty, distracted, thoughts hopping all over the place. She’s good though. Got me focused fairly sharpish, and we spent quite a bit of time looking at how I speak to myself about the kids, how much time I do/don’t spend with them, how caught up I get in guilt when I feel like I’m not doing things ‘the right way’. Which is pretty much all the time. I didn’t go in with this conversation in mind this morning, I had plenty of other things that are causing me more immediate stress than this one, but she made a valid point – while acknowledging that she was aware there were other things I wanted to move on to, she felt that addressing this would give me the space for clarity around other issues, or at least go some way towards giving me more space.
And she was right. One of the biggest thing I beat myself up about with the kids is how much time I’m spending with them, whether it’s enough, whether it’s the right kind of time, whether I’m doing them untold psychological damage every time I say no to something……. So she talked me through an average day. What are the times I’m typically with the kids on a day to day basis? Turns out it’s quite a lot
- one or both of them usually want to sneak into the bed for cuddles in the morning before we get up
- walk to and from school – 10/15 mins each way depending on varying moods/weather
- bedtime telly cuddles – usually about 20 mins/half an hour
- bedtime – stories, cuddles – 15 mins
- Dinner – 15 (on a good day) mins
Apparently that’s quite a lot. It doesn’t seem like a lot. She suggested I make the offer of one on one time daily as well, if they want it, and then follow their lead, and if we could manage to be co-ordinated enough to sit down for breakfast and lunch together as well that would be the guts of another half hour. She thought if I was managing 3 five minute slots throughout the day that would be enough – give them the reassurance that I’m there when they need me, let them off to do their own thing, come back together later. She also pointed out that I need to model healthy behaviour for them – it’s not doing any of us any favours if I always drop everything the minute they need something. For me, it means my needs are always being deferred which consciously or otherwise will eventually lead to frustration and irritation, and for them it teaches them unhealthy expectations as they get older. It also subconsciously reinforces the belief that when they’re parents, their kids must always come first. Maybe it’s like the advice we get in the event of a plane crash – look after yourself first, then tend to those around you. Logically it makes perfect sense. Emotionally? Not yet. But she’s got me thinking about it which is good, and I’m also slowly beginning to be able to acknowledge that I might just be doing a good job at this parenting lark.
Which brought us on to the bigger upset of last week. The dawning of reality around the impossibility of friendship with Therapist 1.0 in the future. I was extremely conscious that we were approaching the hour, and absolutely did not want to get myself all up in a heap just before walking out the door, but we managed to at least talk about the exchange. There wasn’t a whole lot we could do with it in five minutes, and it’s something we need to come back to, but she did say a couple of things that really helped. I was right to make that contact, to look for a definite answer, because while I already knew what that answer would be, I wasn’t ever going to fully accept it unless it was plainly spelled out for me. Now that the line has been drawn, I have to work on moving on from it. The other thing she said surprised me slightly – that what I did, in looking for that answer, was self compassion, because I’m now allowing myself to acknowledge the end of that relationship. Or at least, I’m allowing myself the space to begin to consider acknowledging it.
There’s so much that I know I need to get my head around in the future, but I feel safe with Therapist 2.0 (not attached I hasten to add. Just safe!!!) because she’s also helping me to realise how much I’m already doing for myself. She’s just keeping me on course.