Column by Tammy Beilstein
I was talking with a new friend of mine who has a year-old baby. She sometimes considers herself alone and wonders if the feelings she has about her parenting skills are normal. I tell her that if she is feeling guilty, inadequate, brainless, desperate and scared then yes, her feelings are normal.
We exchanged stories about the times we felt we had failed, and as the words were spoken aloud they seemed to lose some of their power. I told her about the times that I dressed my kids in silly outfits and took pictures of them purely for my own amusement. As for exhaustion, when both of my kids were very young I totally let myself go and actually lived in my husband’s sweatpants and T-shirts for months. Those were just a couple of examples of my feeling inadequate, desperate and guilty. And honestly, haven’t we all had those moments?
When it comes down to it, parents everywhere have basically the same feelings and fears. Even the “parent professionals” will tell you that no one has all the answers, not even them. What they are sure of, though, is the fact that talking things out with other parents will help you to see your behavior as a parent, and your child’s behavior, as typical and probably pretty healthy. Just knowing that your child is not the only child on the planet who has ever made a scene in public or shouted an inappropriate declaration at a family reunion seems to make the experience less traumatic. As an added bonus, if you can understand why your child did whatever he or she did, you can make the episode a learning experience for everyone.
“When I was a young first-time parent, I wondered about everything my daughter did,” said Arleen Garland, program director for Human Resource Council Child and Parent Services in Calaveras County. “I would call my cousin, who was a psychologist, and ask questions about every parenting issue imaginable. Apparently, my cousin got tired of all my calls because she said, ‘Arleen, you need to find a parenting group and talk to other parents.’ It was the best thing I did. I realized my daughter was perfectly normal and it was great to get all kinds of ideas from other parents that had many of the same worries and concerns that I had. Plus, I was able to develop some wonderful friendships that have lasted through the years.”
Some of those local services for parents include:
HRC Child and Parents Services parenting classes: 754-1205
Beyond Talking Group: 754-1205
Parents Unplugged: 754-6885
HRC CAPS Morning Out Playgroups: 754-3421
Boot Camp for Dads: 772-3980
As we prepared to leave, this young mother told me about the days when her child would not go to sleep and she drove around town for almost an hour with her child strapped into the car seat. “With gas at $3.15 a gallon you are desperate!” I told her. “You need help, my friend!”
If you would like more information on support groups for parents and children, or if you or someone you know needs help or more information about preventing child abuse in Calaveras County, please contact Tammy Beilstein, coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse Calaveras Council at 754-6110 ext. 101, write to PCACC, P.O. Box 872, San Andreas, CA, 95249, or visit pcacalaveras.org.