I had a long weekend. A sweet precious wonderful weekend but also a hard one.
No matter how good things are with me and the trio over the weekend, I end up losing my temper because they don’t listen and disobey.
I come from a long line of temper losers. And actually, my long line was worse about it than I am. So I’m sort of improving on history, but mercy do I have a long way to go.
I don’t talk to any people in my life like I talk to my kids. I love on them and hug on them and affirm them regularly, but I also get overwhelmingly frustrated and then I yell. I actually tried to use other words for it that sounded softer, like raise my voice, but it’s yelling. Maybe bellowing even. Sigh.
We have good days, like today, where really the only shouting was the zillionth time trying to get the boys to stay in their room after bedtime and when we were crossing a busy street at the grocery. But Friday I was fried and probably drained from a long work week, and my frayed emotions let small things that the kids did pick at me in a way that it shouldn’t have.
It seems to me, and maybe I’m wrong, there’s a lot of mommy madness going around. I talk to my girlfriends who are struggling with it. I read blog posts about different moms takes on how to be better, and I really do read and try to incorporate those suggestions. Heck, there’s even a whole website devoted to one mom’s work getting over her temper with her kids.
I think it’s because so many of us mommies today are plum worn down. Wiped out. Spent.
So many moms like me have to balance a career, pressure to stay fit which requires time to work out and shop for organic kale (bleck), time for your husband, time for your kids, time for your extracurricular activities (seeing girlfriends, serving the community, etc.), time for your kids extracurricular activities, etc. I just got a master family calendar so we could see who was doing what when. And that is with the hard and fast cap on only one activity per child (just so happens this semester they all picked a different one) and significant limits on what we accept by way of outside invitations (we decline dinner parties, birthday parties, etc.).
I don’t have a ton of wisdom to offer yet because I haven’t mastered the art of how to love better and yell less. But this is what I’m working on:
1. State their age. There is tremendous power when you speak it before you lose your temper because you realize they are 2 or 13. This week I said to one, “would you stop whining and act like a five year old.” I wasn’t yelling at the time and still it stopped me in my tracks. Remember, he is still just five. Five year olds whine. You shouldn’t let him whine all the time or no one will marry him, but cut him a little slack…
2. Say you are tired (if you are). I started saying recently, I am really tired and trying super hard to help you color your picture and make dinner, but it’s wearing me out. Can you let me finish this one thing before we move to the next thing? Fill in whatever it is, that’s just an example, but somehow it helps your kids realize you aren’t superhuman and that you’re doing as much as you can as fast as you can.
3. Take a break from being called mommy. You can’t do this often, and it’s only for moms of littles, but it ended up cracking us up and lightening the mood. With all three yelling mommy, mommy, at the top of their lungs, all wanting something different or ratting the other one out, while you’re trying to pull clothes out of the dryer and check on the chicken in the oven and pull on some shorts lest the mailman see you in your drawers, well it’s all too much. So I told them, “you can continue to speak to me but you may not call me mommy for five minutes.” I just needed FIVE minutes without the whining of my name. They kept talking, but I got everything from “Gindi” to “hellooooooo,” and it made us laugh a little and realize each one of us might need to relax.
4. Laugh. If there is any possible way you can break the tension with a joke or a silly face, it sure serves as a wet rag on a fire about to blaze out of control. We try to create a funny moment just before things reach a boiling point.
I get it wrong every day. I’m always praying for patience. (That’s a terrible thing to pray for by the way.) As far as resources go, there’s a lot of insight in Lisa Jo Baker’s 10 Things to Do Differently Before You Lose Your Temper. I love her acknowledgment of the apology which I use often, but I want to get past having to apologize. Not all the time, but I’d love to go a week without having their five year old impatience trigger my own. The Orange Rhino set her goals much higher than that, and her website is filled with wisdom from when she set out to stop losing her temper for a full year. I am reminded by Ann Voskamp that a parent must self-parent first before running all helter skelter judging her child. And we’re all just a work in progress.
So cut them some slack. Cut you some slack. And try to work in a family nap.