Some days I’m in the parenting zone. I’m on my game. I’m patient and organized and know just how to keep things running smoothly, all day long. I only yell once or twice, tops. I’ve got a handle on things. Oh, I love those days. I had one of those days today. Thank you, God.
And then there are those other days. The ones where I find myself frustrated and struggling. The ones where there seems to be one challenge after another. The ones where my 7-year-old spills a plate of pistachio shells and I can’t stop myself from lecturing him, going on and on about how he needs to pay attention when he’s clearing the table, and stop interrupting me while I’m speaking to you! and Daddy and I tell you this all.the.time and that is why you spilled them. And our mutual frustration escalates, twisting and turning on itself, until my boy is in tears and I feel guilty and ashamed at the part I’ve played, but I’m too overwhelmed to stop it.
|Photo by David Goehring via Creative Commons.
Image by Musing Momma. Some rights reserved.
That’s how things had been, off and on, for a few days. Last Monday, as I drove the 2-1/2 hours to my sister’s so I could accompany her to some new doctors’ appointments, I found myself replaying events from the past few days over and over in my mind.
It is a cycle that has played out time and again over the past few years. Things are going along swimmingly and then there is some change, some twist, some new phase one of the boys hits, and I’m thrown for a loop. It catches me off guard and my response is usually a hot mess – frustration and yelling and just plain crappy, ineffective parenting that leaves me feeling awful. I feel awful because 1) it just feels awful to be frustrated and lost, but also 2) I am not being the parent I want to be. It’s not perfection I am aiming for, but to at least know that my child feels loved and supported, instead of shamed and snapped at.
And it always takes me a few days to figure it out – to hit bottom, so to speak, and step back and figure There must be a better way. Whatever the change or twist or phase that has thrown us off balance, there must be some better way of handling it. That’s where I found myself Monday night, driving between Pennsylvania and Maryland, discouraged and mulling over the latest challenge, my heart in knots and wracking my brain for a solution.
I eventually came up with a plan. I narrowed my frustrations from the past weeks into one or two things to focus on. I decided to replace my lectures about respect with the Try Again Please technique that worked so well for us a few months ago. (Why did I stop using that?) I decided to make Be Considerate my “discipline” focus with the boys, because I realized that is the overall concept we’ve been struggling with, the umbrella under which most of my frustrations fit – for the boys to consider how their actions affect others. And I put some more thought into our daily routine.
Then I spent three days at my sister’s, which I’m sure didn’t hurt. A little time to miss my boys and a little space to regain my equilibrium are just what I need from time to time.
And when I returned home, I returned in a better place. I returned feeling like I had a plan and, with that plan, the ability to handle whatever comes up. I returned home eager to love all over those sweet boys of mine. Today, I’m in the Zone.
I know this isn’t the last time we’ll go through this. There will be another day – hopefully later, rather than sooner – when I find myself in over my head, watching my frustration crush my child’s spirit just a little bit and desperate to stop before we can’t go back. It’s the dance of motherhood I’ve realized (at least for me), so try to afford myself a little grace – which is easier said than done. The critical part is not to let those Bad Days go on for too long, not to slide to the bottom of that slippery slope. I dig in my heels and pull us back. That’s what mommas do.
Do you have “those” kind of days or weeks? How do you pull yourself out?