Have you seen this Pinterest compilation or heard of this website where parents post pictures of why their kids are crying? It is effing hilarious. You know…except for when you are knee deep in it yourself, right?
I could see the writing on the wall when my husband commented on our terrific two-year old daughter’s whining nearly the moment they walked in the door tonight. Hmmm, I wonder what happened on the car ride home, I think to myself. She was testing us in all the usual ways- wanting her binkie (our rule: “binkie is for bed time”), taunting her older brother with pet names we all know he doesn’t like, and of course the classic: I want what bubba has (she suddenly didn’t like her purple lip balm- she wanted her brother’s red one). Time out. Sigh.
Then the near-5-year old starts up. The yelling at his sister for her calling him names. The demands. I want to blow down Santa (we have one of those inflatable Santa’s in our front yard). The “I’m not hungry and I don’t want to sit at the table.” It doesn’t help that I was super excited to give him some birthday cards that came in the mail today. It doesn’t help that his present from Nana had candy in it. And what happens when a kid eats candy? They are like gremlins. They want more and more. Then when you don’t give it to them- meltdown. Time out. Sigh.
So both kids are in time out and I am struggling. My husband is struggling. This is not the magical evening I wished for. And the night did not get better. I fell over the puppy gate because my husband didn’t secure it. I subsequently snapped at him for making food for himself instead of focusing on the kids. The kids got to the table but were whining about dinner. They were bargaining and negotiating for the food they actually wanted (A nogi bar and chocolate chex). I let the puppy out and sit down on the couch for a breather. I needed a mommy time out, but I didn’t get one. A few minutes later, I hear my husband, “Mia what are you doing?!” I stand up and turn around – Mia, after just earning some cereal, has inexplicably dumped it on the table and down the front of her. As I walk over, I see my son spitting out his chicken. On the table. And the floor. He didn’t like the taste. Or texture. (Never mind the fact that I KNOW my son has sensory issues and my reaction is the least therapeutic thing you can think of in that moment). Oh yes, and cue the high-pitched puppy yelping at me through the glass patio door.
You know, on many nights I can find the humor in these situations, but tonight was not one of those nights. I slammed the kiddie cup on the table (yup, really. SMH). I sternly warned, “you two are NOT making good choices tonight! No show tonight! End of story!” Oh yeah, I may have also thrown the nogi bar that my son was no longer getting. Folks, this parenting thing- it is not for the weak. And we all have our weak moments. But damn, parenting can feel like a minute to minute uphill battle some nights, can’t it?
Sometimes I think one of the most challenging and daunting tasks of a household, especially if we work full time and are away from your kids most of the day, is our expectations for the few hours we do get to spend with our kids. …How desperately we want the hours after work – those few precious hours that we have with our kids – to be magical. We want it to be unicorns and smiles and sunshine. We miss our kids. We love them, damnit!! And we want to shower them with love and have a beautiful, happy, and fun couple of hours before bed time. Can you feel the weight of that expectation? Gosh it feels heavy. Can you imagine what the expectation of perfection could have on our kids? Especially if we repeatedly seek that out every night??
Any time I have a parenting meltdown, I feel a little ashamed (at first). Like: Way to go Jamie, you just handled the situation exactly how your 2 year old handles it. But recovering can be easier than you think, if only you can get out of your own way. So if you ever find yourself having your own brand of mama meltdown, give these tips a try and see if it can help your night turn around more quickly:
- Take the time out. It may not be how you discipline or teach your child, but if you are engaging in a power struggle (i.e. getting emotionally worked up as a result of how your child is behaving), it is really important to take a moment for yourself to re-center, or put more affectionately, to get your shit together.
- Try to find a better feeling thought. Actually, try for 6. But start with one. Something- anything. You may start with, “It could be worse- not like I have any EllenTube-quality disastrous videos to share.” How about, “Is it really that crazy that a toddler is experimenting with her milk and playing with it at the table? No.” “Is it really shocking that a 2 and 5 year old want candy? No. They are just being kids.” Ahhh….feel the relief as you start gaining some perspective. Keep going if you can. The best is when you can hop on the roller coaster and smile through it. But any “better feeling” thoughts are better than none.
- Hold the space that your child is divine. As critical as step 2 is the ability to see your child how you want them to be, in their best light. But here’s the kicker: without resistance to what you are currently experiencing. In other words- be ok with the mess. Be ok with the tantrums. Find a way to be ok. Don’t attach blame or anger to their actions. It isn’t about you. They are young, they are learning and testing boundaries and becoming their own beautiful, unique and extraordinary little human beings. See them in the best possible way – know they are good, know they are perfect just as they are, and know that this is life. It is a roller coaster. Enjoy the ride.
- It’s never too late to do the right thing. Yes, that often means apologizing to your child for, well, for handling the situation like a child. We are meant to show our kids the proper way of handling a situation- the emotionally intelligent and calm way. For me, this was bringing my son into his room, expressing myself with words; calmly, patiently and lovingly. “Mommy was frustrated that you were choosing to do things that you know are not good. I know you are a very good boy and I love you very much, no matter what you do. Mommy shouldn’t have reacted that way. Do you forgive me? Let’s both try to make better choices, ok?”
- Lots and lots of love. I am a firm believer that the most important and healthy thing we can do for our children is shower them with love. The single most empowering thing we can teach our kids is to love themselves and to feel unconditionally loved. Also, that everyone makes mistakes and we can use them to learn how to make even better choices next time.
I’m a huge fan of these “reasons why my kid is crying” memes and funny kid videos. Share some of your favorites below! 🙂 What does it look like when you intentionally recover from a meltdown?