With regards to emotional self-management and the use of good manners, I hit what felt like an all-time low today. Not sure what ’caused’ it, but by 8 am it was pretty clear that Mommy was having a hard day. I’ll spare you the details (i.e. emotional outbursts, scowls, harsh tone, ultimatums) but let’s just say I’d be pretty embarrassed if my behavior had been caught on hidden camera. It was painful enough knowing my kids were witnessing it and suffering through it and that I would eventually report it to my small group of trusted friends in our regular check-ins.
In hind-sight, I wonder if there were several factors at play:
- several consecutive nights of less-than-normal sleep
- heightened sadness over my dad’s absence as we near the holidays
- The toddler felt extra needy and whiny today
- The big kids argued hourly over issues that felt insufferable to me. I just don’t care who sat on your part of the couch!
- a liver detox that has me feeling ‘off’…irritable, nauseous, and bloated. And ain’t nobody cheery when their pants are tight.
Whatever the reason, I just couldn’t seem to get a hold of myself. I would react harshly to a tone, a request, a fight; collect my breath; say I’m sorry; ask their forgiveness-even telling them I don’t want to yell and that I realize I’m being mean right now and I’m having a hard time stopping. And then within the hour I’d do it again. The day left me feeling like I was sinking further and further into a pit and I was dragging the kids down with me.
As miserable and unglamorous as this day was, I have some other observations to celebrate:
- I was able to recognize my behavior in the moment, call it what it was, and ask forgiveness quickly. This is a far cry from the old days where I would sulk, stew, and try to excuse away my behavior (and I have my loving, steadfast husband to thank for showing me a different way.)
- I was able to view my behavior as an indication of me today, not me always. In others words, I didn’t sum up my entire parenting gig in light of today’s events, negating all the positive over that past 9 years, nor did I assume that this will always be me from here on out, from tomorrow to eternity. No, I’ve been at this long enough to know that there is always hope of change and healing and growth, and that believing that (faith) is a great first step.
- For the past 7 years I’ve heard my mentor weekly say feelings and passing thoughts are not right or wrong; they just are. They are chemical reactions giving you information. You can stop judging them and step back and learn from what you are experiencing. And you can breath with compassion for all who are facing a similar challenge. Today I noticed that I was not judging myself, filling my head with critical self-talk, but rather allowing the day’s events to flow through me somehow. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I didn’t waste time trying to figure it out either as if that would fix it. Fix me. I suspect and I hope there will be a follow-up post someday sharing the insight God has given me after a day like today, but right now I’m simply observing and waiting. And sharing with you.
- I didn’t feel compelled to dump on my husband. When he arrived home at 7:30, he took over bedtime so I could lock myself in my room and take a bath. I did this with a deep sense of gratitude over his partnership with me in parenting. I didn’t demand that he rescue me, suffer as I had, or make it all better. I didn’t demand alone time, claiming it as my right after such a horrid day. No, it was received as a gift from a husband who has watched me grow in taking responsibility for myself. This was my messy day and my messy emotions and it’s on me to restore my relationships with my kids. He gave me the gift of alone time in a candle-lit bath not because I demanded it (like I used to) but as a gift given with confidence that I will get to work on looking for healing from whatever the heck today was.
Before the kids fell asleep, I talked to each one privately. I told them I was so very sorry for my outbursts today. Each one hugged me and said it’s ok.
But it’s not, I replied. It’s not ok if this were to become a habit. I don’t think it will, but today showed me that I still have a lot of growing to do. Then I asked each one if they had any advice; something that works for them and that might work for me as I spend the night asking God for help.
You might need some alone time (Judah, 5)
You might need to go to bed earlier (Caramia, 7)
You might need a healthy snack (Sam, 8)
Try a TAP (Silas, 9)
I listened quietly, kissed them each goodnight, and walked to my room, tears spilling down my cheeks, because I just experienced something so very beautiful: my children lovingly parenting me through my tantrum.
Tonight, as I take my bath and eat my health snack and do my TAP and swallow my sleep aid to put me and this day out of our misery, I breath a deep sigh of compassion for all the mamas…all the humans…who might find themselves in a similar challenge. May God bless our every effort to love and be loved more fully.
O Light, that follows all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray
That in Thy sunshine’s blaze, its day may brighter, fairer be.