I had read many parenting books, looked through various parenting articles, and had several parenting-related conversations with other parents before. If there's one article which really stood out for me and had a significant impact on how I view parenting life, it was this one article here.
This article truly changed my perspectives towards parenting, and also life in general. These 3 simple words enabled me to look at every situation in a totally different light - "I get to".
By looking at every situation through the "I get to" lenses vs "I have to" lenses, my whole perspective towards the situation took a huge shift. And I've been constantly reminded of the need for this perspective shift in recent months.
Being a nauseous exhausted pregnant woman while juggling a full time job and handling a 3 year old toddler has proven to be tougher than I expected. I've had my fair share of frustrations throughout the last 3 years of parenthood, but throw in pregnancy hormones into the mix, my fuse has definitely been shorter than usual.
2 weeks ago when my husband was out of town on a business trip, I was pretty much alone at home battling my pregnancy nausea (and exhaustion and backaches), and trying my best to handle a feisty over-active toddler. One night, he didn't want to sleep. He brought a bunch of toys from his play area into his bedroom, and spent (at least) 45 minutes playing with them. Just when I thought he was done, he took almost 10 books from his bookcase and insisted that I read them all.
I was on the verge of snapping and screaming at him - not something that I love to do and not in line with the positive parenting style we adopt at home, plus the aftermath guilt usually kills me. But at that critical point, I remembered those 3 little words "I get to". Throughout the entire situation, these were my thoughts -
"I have to play these toys with him."
"I have to read all these books to him."
"I have to sing lullabies and pat him to bed."
"I have to do these all alone, because Daddy is not around."
It's no wonder that my frustrations and irritation was slowly but surely building up to a boiling point.
I needed that perspective shift. Instead of "I have to", I replaced my thoughts with "I get to".
"I get to play these toys with him."
"I get to read all these books to him."
"I get to sing lullabies and pat him to bed."
"I get to do these alone with him, because Daddy is not around."
It was like a switch that came on. I immediately felt better. Instead of feeling frustrated at my little boy, I felt love towards him and gratitude that I get to have a chance to do all these with him.
It's the same perspective shift I adopt when it comes to managing his tantrums or meltdowns. I see every tantrum and meltdown as an opportunity to help him identify what he's feeling, and talk him through his emotions and thoughts. I see every tantrum and meltdown as an opportunity to teach the child on what's right and what's wrong.
Whenever he throws a tantrum, instead of "I have to handle this screaming crying toddler", I now replace it with "I get to handle his tantrum, and hence I get to turn this into a learning opportunity for both myself and him".
These 3 simple words saved my sanity during the tougher times of parenting, and they are a constant reminder to me to appreciate and cherish every parenting moment.
I get to love another being who means the world to me.
I get to be loved by another being who sees the world in me.
And once you get into the habit of replacing "I have to" with "I get to", you will realize that this powerful perspective shift can be applied to every aspect of your life.
Instead of "I have to go to work", it becomes "I get to go to work".
Instead of "I have to cook for my husband", it becomes "I get to cook for my husband".
Instead of "I have to exercise", it becomes "I get to exercise".
I got these 3 little words engrave onto a reminder bracelet that I wear everyday now.
This is such a powerful mental tool to have, and these 3 simple words are so impactful they help me see the positives in every thing I get to do.
Most importantly, replacing "I have to"s with "I get to"s has truly empowered me as a parent to adopt conscious positive parenting with my toddler, by being able to more calmly and affectionately handle every single situation with him.