Last week was a really rough week with the kids. Somewhere along the lines of my parenting journey, I completely lost control of these small beings. They have turned into little balls of crazy howler monkeys hopped up on caffeine and sugar (neither of which did I give them) that are chasing hypothetical squirrels and aggressively trying to boot the others out of the nest in a survival of the fittest MMA battle.
I’ve been a parent for a long time. So far I’ve managed to be fairly confident that while I know I’m not perfect, I’m not completely getting this whole parenting gig wrong. But then last week happened. Ok, honestly, this has been brewing for a while now. I don’t feel so confident now. No… I feel like I have completely and utterly f*ck’ed up.
Everything came to a head Thursday. The kids and I had a very busy week of back to back field trips. I like to be busy and on the go, but our schedule last week was even too much for me. We were all tired and cranky. But Thursday morning we headed out for a science/history class I had signed us up for at a historical mill. Like most adventures, it was an hour drive there. The Husband recently bought me a vehicle with 3rd row seating and a video player so usually car rides are more peaceful. Not that day.
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They screamed and yelled and fussed and argued and reached up, back, and over to hit, kick, and throw things at each other. By the time we got to the mill I was feeling frazzled. Onward we went though, because we’re nothing if not troopers.
An hour and a half class and experience that was really pretty awesome and back into the car to grab some lunch and head to piano lessons. More screaming. More yelling. More fussing. More arguing. More hitting, kicking, and throwing things. ACK!!! At this point I was really feeling stressed. I didn’t have my extra anxiety medication with me, but should I really need it? Should my kids be behaving in such a way that I feel like I need to take medication just to deal with them?
Before we got out of the car to go in to piano there was more bad behavior. Piano was relatively peaceful, but no sooner had we gotten to the car then it started again. The girls both had their first dance classes that evening and I just wasn’t sure we were going to make it. Well, in fact, we didn’t make it. By the time we got to the dance studio, all 3 kids were screaming and hitting, I was bawling, and the world just felt completely out of control.
I called the Husband and said to be ready I was dropping the kids off and leaving.
Looking back, I can see how that freaked him out. At the time, I was just so extremely on edge that I couldn’t think past the immediate and dire need to GET. AWAY. FROM. THE. KIDS!!!!
As I drove away in the silence of my vehicle all I could think about was:
- Where did I go wrong?
- What have I done to teach my kids to be so violent?
- How do I change these kids?
- Is it too late for The Princess? for all of them?
- Have I ruined them?
- Am I a terrible mother?
- Would the kids be better off without me?
- Where do I go from here?
I think everyone goes through this from time to time. It’s easy to look at these little people when they’re being their worst and internalize that as bad parenting moments. In fact, when I left Thursday I went to the library and spent an hour writing a blog post titled, “Another Bad Parenting Moment.” I emotionally vomited 1,235 words into my blog of all of the ways I have failed to be a good parent to my children.
The thing is, I really don’t think I am a BAD parent. I’m a HUMAN parent. And with being human, I am filled with flaws. Flaws that need me to sometimes ask the questions above so I can reflect and consider how I can do things better. Self improvement isn’t easy, but we all have room to learn and grow. Through that, we can become better people, happier people, more satisfied people.
The reality is that the relationship between my kids is a reflection of the relationship I have with them. A lot of times I snap at the kids because I feel like I’m already being pulled into a million different directions, so when they are saying, “Look at this thing, Mom!” for the 50,000th time in 5 minutes or the Little Man is scared to go to the bathroom because he’s afraid of the dark even though it’s noon and perfectly sunny…. I lose my cool. And I’m prone to reaching behind me in the car and swinging to smack anything I can get after a full day of screaming and fighting in the car. Don’t even get me started on screaming and yelling at them. Because I can say the same thing a million times, but if I scream it suddenly they listen.
So maybe it’s time to rethink my parenting style. Remember my post not too long ago, “I’m Just Not That Kind of Mom” (READ——> here)? Maybe that style of parenting worked ok when I only had one kid, but it just doesn’t work when there are 4. In order for kids to get along they need to have empathy for each other. Empathy will allow them the ability to not want to see the others hurt or angry or upset so they will not do things that cause those negative feelings. While I don’t have to be a sappy sweet kind of mom, I do need to be more empathetic and in touch with the kids’ (and my) emotions. I need to take more time to teach the kids to love one another through being the observable example of loving each of them individually. The screaming and yelling and general hateful reactions to frustration must stop with me first, and eventually the kids will follow my modeled behavior.
Damn. It’s hard. I’m not going to lie.
I don’t think I can (or should) change myself or my parenting style completely, but I do think that being more nurturing with the kids and especially more in control of my own feelings is a good move toward being a better person in general. I must allow myself forgiveness for “falling off the wagon” of self improvement, but with persistence and determination I can become a better parent. And hopefully, through improving myself and my parenting I will help the kids improve their relationships with one another.
Most importantly, through self improvement, even if the kids don’t change and all of these parenting books and their philosophies turn out to be crap, being more nurturing and in control of my own emotions will help me tolerate the insanity of the feral cats, I mean kids better.