Are Kids Like an Ancient Torture Device?
The answer is yes. Or no. Or… it depends on the day?
Okay, so this one might get me into big trouble. Let me start out by saying that kids are awesome and I love my two little munchkins more than anything.
Now that that’s out of the way… are kids like Chinese water torture?
If that question horrified you, I apologize. It’s just a comparison that popped into my head one morning as my un-caffeinated brain was trying to keep our girls occupied when they had woken up way before the sun.
Most of us are mature enough to admit that we can love our children very much despite them being overwhelming, and stressful, and worry-inducing at times.
There are moments they absolutely melt your heart, and then there are the times you wonder why anybody would ever willingly have more children. Sometimes those moments are literally 10 seconds apart.
What is Chinese Water Torture?
Chinese water torture is an ancient torture method where you are restrained so you can’t move and then you’re placed below a device that slowly drips water onto you.
Doesn’t sound so bad, right?
On a hot day, this might even sound pleasant! Who wouldn’t want cool, refreshing water during the heat and humidity we experience from May to October?
And in this torture, a few drips aren’t a problem. They don’t hurt. It’s not like it’s drowning you. Nobody is poking you with anything.
You. Just. Can’t. Move.
After some time passes, you begin to have some discomfort. Maybe a drip caused an itch. Well, you can’t move to satisfy the itch so your mind just focuses on it.
After enough time passes, you realize that you have no control over your environment.
Eventually, it gets to the point where you go mad because you just want the water to stop dripping on you. It will never stop until the higher powers decide to stop it.
Your lack of ability to control your surroundings can actually make you go crazy.
How does this apply to our kids?
During my brilliant, or crazy, morning epiphany, I arrived at this comparison because I didn’t find any single aspect of parenting to be rocket science. Yet the entire thing could be maddening.
We have two girls under the age of four. Our oldest is only now starting to get into the “why?” phase, so I still haven’t even had to try and explain the meaning of the universe.
I don’t need to run into burning buildings to save people. I don’t need to solve impossible mathematical equations.
Overall, it’s not that hard to meet their needs… right?
I mean I just plop some food down in front of them during the appropriate times. Ensure they’re drinking enough. Make sure all potty aspects are addressed. And watch them closely enough that they don’t do something to seriously harm themselves or burn the house down.
It sure sounds easy enough… of course, the devil is in the details!
Having one drip of water going down your face isn’t a big deal, but the inability to control your environment literally makes you go crazy after enough time passes.
My big realization was that while no one aspect of raising kids requires a college degree, you, the parent, have lost most of the control you once had over your life.
I was feeling such frustration that morning that I didn’t know how to explain. The kids weren’t doing anything defiant. They were actually playing pretty nicely together, so why did I feel so agitated?
My ability to control my day was gone. I could not sleep in if I wanted because these kids needed me to watch them. I couldn’t watch an episode of Parks and Rec or read a book.
It finally dawned on me that once you have kids, all those little things the kids require quickly add up to something that can be pretty overwhelming. You have a new boss who has taken control.
And if we as parents don’t do something, we too can go mad just like the person subject to Chinese water torture.
How do we Avoid Going Crazy as Parents?
Here are 3 things you can do to avoid going crazy from lack of control.
- Schedule self-care activities – It’s important that we don’t let our kids completely define our identity. You were a person with interests and hobbies before kids, and it’s crucial that you find some way to stay connected with the previous you. Even as a single parent, there are creative ways to find some time for yourself.
- Remember your values – While I discussed the overwhelming nature of having so little control even though what you’re doing on a daily basis isn’t “difficult,” that perception of overwhelm can be reduced by stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. I bet you have designs on your children growing into well-rounded, productive adults someday. I know for me it’s maddening to feel stuck communicating at a 3-year-old level all day, but remembering that every little bit of teaching and modeling of good behavior is helping Mary develop into that future adult helps me stay grounded.
- Find little wins – To help yourself believe those little things are working towards the long-term goal, it’s helpful to look for small wins along the way. If your kid didn’t hit her sibling in frustration when she would have one week ago, give yourself a pat on the back. If your son remembered to flush after using the bathroom, give yourself (and him) a big high five. Recognizing those periodic victories is helpful to prevent you from feeling burnout like the movie Groundhog Day. There is always progress, it may just be slower than you would like.
So, to wrap up, I’d appreciate if you didn’t tell all your friends that this weird psychologist guy said that kids are terrorists who torture us. But maybe you can share this blog post with them, so they can get some context to go along with the click bait title 😊
If you’ve been struggling and feeling like the kids are running the show, please reach out for a free strategy call. I would love to spend some time chatting with you to hear about your struggles, and helping you see that there is hope. I have a few spots available in my Palm Harbor therapy office, so please give me a call at 727-469-3008, or click the link below to schedule.