Getting help

We’ve been having struggles as parents, and we are getting help.

My wife Kat and I have been getting parenting advice from a professional. All parenting is hard, but sometimes nothing you do works. You read the books, you try the different methods and philosophies, and still it can feel like banging your head against the wall.

Realizing we needed help wasn’t particularly hard; I don’t think Kat nor I felt any shame about admitting we wanted to talk to someone. But actually finding someone and making an appointment was hard for our Type B lifestyles. There’s the intake procedure, there’s getting to know the doctor, there’s figuring out how much it’ll cost–all things that just increase the inertia of getting to an office.

Most of what we go over with the doctor are things we already know–they’re hard to do in the moment, but it’s good to hear nevertheless. Sometimes it’s enough to hear “stick with it” or “it might not seem like it, but it’s working.” But it’s also nice to have a neutral third-party tell us when it’s OK to try something else. Parenting is a game of moving targets, but not moving them too much…moving targets while keeping the targets consistent. It can break your brain. Is now the time for stubborn consistency or is now the time for pragmatic adjustment of the standard? The help of someone who studies brains for a living can make you feel less crazy.

Sometimes it feels like we’re not learning anything in the sessions. Everything just seems like common sense. But it’s common sense that is still good to hear. And that it’s all common sense makes me feel better about myself. Things can be both common sense and hard to do at the same time. Being a parent is hard, and I’m glad I don’t have to drastically alter my worldview to do it in a way that is consistent with how tiny human brains work.

The best part is the dedicated hour once a week to talk about it. By the time the kids are in bed, the dishes are washed, and the floor is swept, Kat and I don’t have a ton of energy left for Serious Discussions™. Having an hour, on the calendar–an hour that we are paying for–means that we’re going to talk about parenting for that hour.

It’s not that Kat and I have different parenting philosophies, but Kat will describe a situation that I experienced in an entirely different way, and vice-versa. Sometimes I was just tired. Sometimes she was acting in a context I didn’t understand because I wasn’t home that afternoon. It really helps to hear Kat talk about what she was feeling. It really helps me to reflect on what I was feeling and share that with Kat.

I think my face is more expressive than it is. I think that my expression conveys exactly what I’m feeling to my loved ones. “I have a headache,” or even “I love you” are best expressed through words, and not through raising my eyebrows slightly. I should talk about things more, with words, and the regular parenting therapy has helped reinforce that.

Kat and I didn’t have to pass any sort of test to become parents. There’s no accrediting body looking at our SOP1 scores. I’m fine to admit that I don’t know what I’m doing, but I still want to do my very best. If things aren’t working, there’s no shame in admitting that I need advice. I don’t expect my kids to be perfect, and I don’t expect my life to be stress-free, but I do want to make things easier if possible. Or at least know that this part is supposed to be hard.

Photo by: exfordy

  1. Standards of Parenting 
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Sam Davies

Sam Davies is the father of two daughters (ages five and eight) who lives in Northside Richmond. He and his wife Kat are trying their best to not raise sociopaths.

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