DID YOU HEAR THAT? Yep. It was definitely the universal end-of-August exhale—the one that happens right after the first bell has rung, the pledge has been said, and we’ve placed our orders at the Starbucks drive-through window. Whew!
As a parent of near-adult people, I feel it’s my civic duty to pass on some stuff not to do with your kids, from my infamous “whatever-you-do-don’t-do-that” list. Maybe it will help you—or you can skip this, and enjoy your Starbucks.
Cheers, by the way. You’ve earned it!
I was in the process of assembling a list of the top ten things that were not helpful—ever—for my kids, when I realized that it was really just one thing disguised as many tiny things.
So here it is, the one big thing not to do as a parent straight from my life: parental OVERDOING.
Overdoing what? Overdoing, period. If the following sounds familiar, maybe you are overdoing, too.
Here’s Dana’s tried-and-true recipe for “parental overdoing” that leads to outcomes that are not great for any members of the family:
It is one part a feeling of parental inadequacy, one part overcompensation to hide said inadequacy, stirred together with a smidgen of pure desperation. You serve this “delightful treat” on the fanciest graham cracker you can find to disguise any hint of low parental self-esteem.
Okay, this actually happened. I was in charge of a get-together for a group of sweet six- year-old children, and began to feel anxiety about the event.
I was making s’mores and I actually felt bad because I was making s’mores in a microwave—no campfire, no tent, and no ghost stories. This was boring.
“You’re a bad parent!” was playing somewhere in my head, unconsciously.
Therefore, without really thinking (or feeling), I began to compensate for the inadequate experience I that I was sure these poor children were going to have to endure, by deciding to make the marshmallows from scratch.
Better, right? Fun!
First allow me to say: Buy the bag of marshmallows.
About halfway through, I began to regret the high temperature candy thermometer involving decision. The recipe is challenging and the candy takes about 4 hours to be ready to eat—oops.
Upon my breath was the scent of pure parental desperation. Because I was in the midst of a full-blown marshmallow disaster, I failed to notice that the kids had eaten most of the Hershey bars.
Now the s’mores were distinctly “s’less,” the kids were uninterested, and they were all sugared-up. I panicked, got out the potato chips, and turned on the Disney Channel.
They were fine. I was not.
I would like to blame Martha Stewart and her homemade marshmallows for the whole thing, but it was not her fault.
My parental overdoing came from a place of “under-feeling” that I was ever good enough, a mindset that arose from my own feelings of not understanding some events of my own childhood.
I subsequently tried to compensate for those feelings by overdoing things with my children in order to mask the hidden pain that I had not worked through for myself.
Because I am an expert over-doer, I easily see it in many of us. This parental overdoing phenomenon starts like all terrible addictions, from simple moments of unconscious discomfort.
You have a stressful day, and then someone offers you a cigarette. Darn that was awful, but the cigarette works. You’re calmer for a moment, yet integrity-free and nothing has changed to make adjustments to the stress of your world.
As a spiritual teacher and reformed over-doer, I’ve learned there’s one big rule that can transform you when you really see that it’s true. Ready?
It’s the “silk-purse-from-a-cow’s-ear” thing. If you don’t feel that you are good enough, nothing you do, or buy, or try to cover it up with, is going to transform that perspective.
Trying to buy or manifest a peaceful mind-body state of integrity with acts of desperation and overcompensation, instead of self-care and truth, never works—ever.
Pain and stress is the gift we are given to re-balance ourselves to our own authenticity and integrity.
When we step on a thorn, the gift of pain says, “the system needs attention.”
We maintain and embody our own adequacy through acting consciously and with integrity in hundreds of thousands of tiny interactions of self-acceptance while doing. This is where your abundance can be found, as well.
So as we begin another year of combining parenting and self-care, before you overdo, DON’T for a minute. Take a moment to check your integrity. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself and re-balance yourself.
If you’re not giving freely from a good place, then it’s going to leave a mark of “yuck” on all involved.
Here’s my rule to check myself:
It is a test which is much like a test for an addiction where we are medicating a pain by smoking, eating, or drinking too much.
I ask myself, “Can I not have this party, (drink, smoke, food) and feel completely fine with another plan?” If I have any gnawing pain about “not doing,” I know there’s some unresolved issue in play for me.
Time to talk to someone, or at least meditate on what’s going on.
This is not anything the surgeon general is going yell at us about, but know that parental overdoing can harm entire families—big time. Here’s why.
At home, I call the parental overdoing thing the “rubbing-their-feet-hoping-my-feet-will- feel-better” game.
When we are trying to give something to our children to soothe a hurt spot in us, it simply doesn’t work—and this behavior often alienates the parent-child connection. The child may enjoy the constant foot rub (or think you’re a bit odd because their feet don’t hurt), but your feet still hurt.
More importantly, your children will sense every bit of your guilt, shame and desperation that went into your parental overdoing. As your overdoing is about you, they become players in your game of how to feel better through them.
They can sense a desperate need for a happy outcome. They realize the doing was much less about them, it was about some kind of bizarre skit they are in where they need to play a part for you.
Had I been in a more conscious state, the exact same party would have been a hilariously fun disaster that we would be laughing about today.
I hope some on my parental non-sense helps you somehow this year! Here’s to all of us!!