My Frenemy, Guilt

3 07 2013


Guilt is a powerful thing. Being raised Catholic, Guilt runs deep through my veins. Guilt has caused me to some weird things like turn myself in for egging someone’s house in high school, while refusing to turn in any of my accomplices. It causes me to be beyond honest, at times, feeling like I owe the world the truth about every little thing (hence this blog). Guilt is such a normal emotion for me, that I don’t even know I’m feeling it anymore; it’s part of who I am. While everyone may have his or her own opinion about guilt, I feel as if Guilt and I have a bittersweet relationship. It’s Guilt that helps me get things done. I feel guilty if I sit for too long, if I don’t play with my kids enough, if my kids or I watch too much TV, if my kids don’t eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal, if I don’t give them undivided attention, etc.

We had an incident at our house recently that has put Guilt in my pocket like my Burt’s Bees lip balm. It’s there always, and if I forget about it for a minute, I feel it with me again, reminding me to take appropriate action. You see, I was so frustrated, I told Cameron to shut up. Did you see that? Guilt made me cross it out because I can’t believe I said that, but Guilt also made me write it because if I didn’t tell the whole truth, Guilt would grow. Before you judge me, know that Guilt has had me judging myself from the second I watched those words cascade uncontrollably out of my mouth.

Cameron has a tendency to interrupt when we’re trying to redirect him. He sometimes yells at us, he cries uncontrollably, and he does not listen, even when we’re trying to help him, which is most of the time when he starts to get out of control like he was the other day. It was during this escalated period of me trying to help him and him refusing to stop talking/crying that I said it.

That Guilt doesn’t work alone, you know… With it, it brings a flurry of other Guilt that you may have forgotten about. So with the Saying-a-Terrible-Thing-to-Your-Child-Guilt, the Guilt that I don’t lose my patience like that with Cameron’s sister came in to the mix. That Guilt brought the one that reminded me that I spend too much time looking at the negatives and leave out the positive things that Cameron does. Even when I do look at the positives, the negatives are sitting back there in my mind, waiting to surface.

As previously noted, Guilt and I have a love-hate relationship. I mean, I’m very used to it hanging around in my life, and I’ve come to accept it, even though I think it shows up unnecessarily much of the time. Some people may think that Guilt does nothing and is a waste of time. I disagree. For me, Guilt allows me to reflect on my actions and how they affect Cameron. When I think about the other day when I said those terrible words to my little boy, Guilt makes me think about what I could have done differently, and how we could have avoided the “incident” in the first place. The last incident was started with obscene amounts of stuff in Cameron’s bedroom, all of which was misplaced by Hurricane Cameron, a category 5 mess-maker. His little SPD brain could not begin to organize that mess and keep it clean. Also, I’ve been inconsistent with brushing him, with vitamins, and he was exhausted, since he’d just been to his first (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) concert two nights before, and had stayed up until midnight. So Guilt makes me stop and think about what Cameron needs and what we’re doing wrong. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely accountability on Cameron’s part too, but that’s still an area that is shady for me; at what point is his behavior just due to bad choices or due to over-/under-stimulation?

So, well played, Guilt. You’ve made me think about how to make some positive changes in our home for Cameron. In my Guilt-induced reading of my go-to guide, Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske, a passage spoke to me:

“…if you do not observe [your child’s] behavior for subtle clues as to what’s up, listen to your child to learn what really makes him “go off,” and let him know he is loved and supported no matter what, all your sensory recipes and techniques will not have their full effect. Compassion, patience, and unconditional love are the real magic ingredients for working with any child, especially one with sensory issues.” (102)

So true! Thanks again, Guilt!




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