“Mom, I can do it. I CAN DO IT!!!” Hadley screams in my face as I adjust the buckle straps on her carseat. I inhale and exhale deeply through my nose. “I will remain calm, I will remain calm,” I repeat to myself as I walk around the back of the car and get in the driver seat.
“You do not yell at me. That is not respectful and it hurts me,” I retort buckling my seatbelt and starting the engine. My voice starts to elevate and intensify as I try to explain matter of factly, “I know you can buckle yourself in Hadley. I know you are a big girl. But like we’ve discussed before (just yesterday in fact and the day before and last week) even if you buckle yourself in your car seat, I still need to check it and maybe adjust it a little so I know that you’ll be safe as we drive. That doesn’t mean your not a big girl or you didn’t do a good job, but it is because I am your mom and it’s my job to make sure you are safe in the car.” Why do I feel like a broken record? What is it with transitions and getting in and out of the car that is so freakin’ difficult? We are on our way to a playdate for crying out loud. She should be excited, compliant and sweet. She slept in. We just ate a snack. What the f*** is happening right now?
She scrunches her nose at me and forces out a puff of air through it like a dragon. “Do not make that face at me, that is not respectful and I don’t like it! We will go right back inside if you continue!” I yell. She senses my anger and frustration. I have no intention of going back inside, but hope the threat is enough to calm the little dragon down. She scrunches her nose again and lets out a harumph of annoyance. The car is silent as I start driving out of the neighborhood.
“I am not responding to you now,” she states with her arms folded and head looking out the window.
I let out a long sigh and no verbal response.
“I am not responding to you now.” Hadley repeats. Again, I say nothing.
A few minutes later, as we continue on to our destination, I hear a quiet whisper from the back seat, “I’m sorry mom.”
“Thank you Hadley,” I reply. I again explain my job is to keep her safe and check her carseat. We arrive at our playdate and all is well.
These transitions to and from the car have been a challenge all summer long. I’m actually quite proud with how I handled this particular situation. I was upset but managed to diffuse myself and Hadley for that matter, by keeping quiet for a few minutes. Although there have been many times that I have not been able to keep quiet and diffuse…I am learning.
I hate that I lose my temper and patience with my daughter so easily. Even when my two-year-old son does something he knows he shouldn’t, I tend to be much more lenient. But when my four-year-old (will be five in less than 2 months) does something she knows she shouldn’t, tests the boundaries, or I feel like I am repeating myself to her multiple times with no change in results, I tend to run out of patience real quick. She pushes my buttons. Maybe it’s because we are so much alike, we are mother and daughter and it is only natural we butt heads, or maybe it is because she is going on five and I somehow expect her to know better by now or make better choices simply because she wants to be a good person who is nice and respectful. It could be any of those reasons. But here’s some things I have learned: kids forgive easily and quickly, I am not the first mom to get angry, and I am human. Humans get angry and feel emotion that we sometimes have trouble dealing with.
When I was young, I remember my mom got very angry with me because I didn’t want any of the things she suggested for breakfast. I sat in a lump on the kitchen floor saying, “no,” with an expression of disgust on my face after every suggestion she made: toast, cereal, oatmeal, yogurt etc. After about the seventeenth suggestion of something, my mom had enough. “Here!” she yelled as she stuck a bag of chocolate chips in my face, “maybe you’ll want some of these,” she suggested with a wild, angry look in her eyes. She proceeded to open the bag with fireceness and shoved a few in my mouth as I let out sobs. I ate those few chocolate chips for breakfast… of course. I’m not sure what happened after that. It’s a fuzzy memory but I’m sure that morning I had been a pain in the ass for my mom and her reaction was warranted. Breakfast time can be brutal. After having two kids, I now know this.
My mom might be saddened that I have this memory from my childhood. She furthermore might upset that I shared it. But let me say this: I am so thankful to have this memory. This memory shows me that sometimes as a mom, you just get frustrated or plain angry. Even my mom did. Even my mom who is an amazing mother, got angry with her children. I have countless wonderful memories from my childhood. However, this memory comforts me in knowing that anger reaches all of us at one point or another.
Just as easily as my kids are able to forgive me for losing my temper or patience, I need to also be able to forgive myself. I am human, I will get frustrated. I cannot hang on to the guilt I feel after overreacting. That’s where grace comes in. Thank you Lord for forgiveness and grace.
When you’re potty training your kid and you praise her for peeing and dropping a little pebble of poop in the toilet and then later she goes ahead and drops the rest of her load in the corner of her bedroom, you get angry. Then later you realize that they are still learning and while you spent the better part of your morning scrubbing poop out of the carpet, they were successful using the toilet at one point at least. Potty training is a process and it can be very, very hard. Give yourself grace.
When you finally get the kids outside for some fresh air, you fill up the water table and sit back, and relax in your lawn chair while the kids splash play with glee. Then suddenly your daughter squirts dirty water table water into your nice cold glass of wine, you get angry. After all, that was practically the last of the bottle (it was a good one too). Then later you realize it was only a glass of wine. And your daughter, the mixologist, was playfully squirting water, not realizing in the moment how much the relaxation and glass of wine meant to you. Give yourself grace.
The great thing that happens when I get overly-frustrated or upset with my kids is the conversation that follows. “I’m sorry I got so upset Hadley. I overreacted. I shouldn’t have yelled. WIll you forgive me?”
“Sure mom. It’s okay. You want to play My Little Ponies?”
Kids are so quick to forgive, bless their hearts. They move on. It is me who is stuck with the guilt I feel for acting the way that I did. But just as quickly as forgiveness and grace is given to me by my kids and the Lord when I seek redemption in prayer, I should also forgive myself, learn from my mistakes, accept grace, and try to approach the situation better next time.