My family judges me. What do I do?Nov 26, 2022
I’m concerned my family members are going to question our parenting choices over things our kids can’t do or aren’t doing, like reading and going to school. What do I do?
First, notice the things that are coming up for you as you worry about and prepare for this judgment. There are likely a lot of things that your kids can't do. Yet there are particular things that you are armoring up against, that you are particularly sensitive to. There's a reason that those things are on the list; there's a reason that your kid not going to school and not being able to read is particularly vulnerable.
It may be because you are particularly responsible for their schooling, and maybe you feel inadequate, or you have your own insecurity around this question. You're noticing the armoring up process, the feeling that you need to be ready for this. What you're really noticing is your own vulnerability around these questions.
When we're vulnerable, there are a couple of paths that we can take. We may protect our vulnerability by burying it deep underneath layers and layers of protection. This path might look like preparing and endlessly rehearsing scripts to respond to family members who might critique you. It may lead you to want to hide that area by not bringing it up or rapidly changing the subject.
A second path may be to go on the offensive by attacking back when somebody touches that that tender spot in you. Or by proactively bringing it up in a self-deprecating way. If you tear yourself down first, then no one can surprise you with their critique.
A third path that we can take with our vulnerability is to see it, name it, and surround it with as much self-compassion and self-understanding as possible. On this path, we recognize that this is a piece of your journey that doesn't feel very steady right now. We may ask: “What beliefs about myself are underneath the question of school?” I'm not a good mom. I'm not a good teacher. I'm not a good caregiver. I haven't done what I'm supposed to do. The state is going to find me out.
By bringing those underlying beliefs into the light, you're giving your vulnerability more room to speak to you about what it needs. Essentially, vulnerabilities are our needs.
You may need more support. You may need more validation. You may need more encouragement and companionship. You may need more practical help. It may be that your vulnerability just needs more room to talk to you about itself.
By noticing that the instinct to protect is a sign of vulnerability and that this vulnerability is coming up for particular reasons, then how do you listen to the vulnerability enough to find out what the need is? Ultimately, how do you meet that need, so that you can go into an engagement with a family member and respond confidently? “In this season it has been so good for us to be outside of the school system.” You can show up honest and protected, vulnerable and guarded. You can bring out this part of you into conversation without it wounding you, when you have taken care of your own needs.
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