Parenting is HARD
Every afternoon as 5:00 approaches I start the dinner-bath-bedtime process. Most nights it goes well, but every so often there’s a meltdown. (Sometimes one of the kids, sometimes me 😂)
The other night I was tired and just wanted to shower and crawl into bed but it was only 6:00 pm…. I still had two kids awake and that wasn’t an option.
I know how I want to parent. I know what I believe is right. I know that I always want to show my children unconditional love and that I want to practice patience. But there are times when it’s SO HARD to actually do it.
So back to that night…
My youngest son took something that my older son was playing with so in retaliation he sat on the bag my younger son was holding. I didn’t see it play out I just saw him sitting on the bag and my younger son crying. I was upset to see him treat his younger brother like that and though I usually try not to get involved I already had no patience left and the night was just beginning. I picked up my younger son who was crying and said something to my older son along the lines of “why would you do that to him,” and then continued up the stairs towards the bath. My older son is sensitive. I knew that what I did would hurt his feelings and he would want the reassurance from me that I loved him even though I didn’t love what he did. I also knew that I should give it to him as I already did something I don’t believe was right (choosing one child’s side in a situation between them). These thoughts were going through my head yet I couldn’t break the bad moment. He started following me up the stairs crying and saying “mommy.” I was holding my younger son and I should have sat down and gave them both a hug but I didn’t. I let it go on and it turned into a full blown melt down. All he wanted was a hug from me and I was so done that I just stood in the bathroom telling him to come to the bath. I don’t share this story as a highlight of my “mom career” but I share it because I KNEW I wanted to handle the situation differently but I just didn’t.
Eventually he calmed down and I calmed down and I started the bath. When my husband came home, which may have been earlier than usual since I texted him “I can’t deal tonight” — I didn’t even say hi to him, I walked out of the room and I said “they’re all yours.” I went to my room to calm down and when my son came in to my room all clean and in pajamas, I gave him a big hug. We were talking and I asked him about what happened downstairs and he explained that he didn’t want his brother to take that toy and I asked if there was something else he could have done besides taking his bag and sitting on it, which of course he had good answers to. As I looked at him laying next to me and chatting, I couldn’t understand why an hour before I refused to give him a hug when that’s when he needed it most. It’s just so annoying when he melts down and calls out for a parent over and over again. But he’s not 30. He’s 4. And while I was tired and cranky and wanted to get into bed, I had to keep going because I’m 30, but a 4 year old who had a full day of school, when he’s tired and cranky he doesn’t have the capacity to always overcome that. I didn’t act the way I believe is right yet I expected more from a 4 year old than I did from myself.
As my son gets older, I can see some of the parenting things I learned playing out exactly. When he’s jealous and wants attention he will do something he knows is “wrong” – attention seeking is attention seeking, they don’t differentiate between positive and negative attention. And then when he sees one of us is upset, he eventually wants that reinforcement that we still love him. All classic child behavior. I know I can break the mold because when I try hard and put into practice what I learned, it works. But this whole post is to remind myself that it doesn’t always matter that we know what to do. It’s HARD to implement. I KNOW to ignore the negative attention seeking. I KNOW to be aware that if he’s negative attention seeking perhaps I didn’t give enough DUE attention that day. I KNOW to express an upset feeling at the action specifically and not at him. But honestly, when he does something annoying, I do feel annoyed at him. Do I love him any less? NO! But that’s not what he reads when I direct it at him and not action. When I yell instead of speak. I hate yelling, but then I do it. Because it’s hard not to.
What I love about reflecting is that it gives me the opportunity to apologize to him. I have found that he really internalizes when we acknowledge that we did something we regret and it has made him more reflective of his own behavior.
There is no perfect parent. Or maybe there is, but it’s not me. The best we can do is try. And when we fail, we try harder next time. Our kids watch our every move and they learn the most by how we act as they try to model us. Don’t be above apologizing to your kids and letting them know you would have preferred to handle the situation differently.
I wanted to post about this particular night because I was aware as it was happening that I wasn’t behaving in a way I strive to behave, and I still didn’t change my behavior. This post is for me, to tell me it’s ok to have a pass every once in a while. I tried harder on the nights since and I’m aware that when we both (myself and the kids) try we have a very nice time together. It’s so much more pleasant to have a good time then to have meltdowns and fighting and crying. If only it could always be pleasant…