I yelled at my kids. No, I screamed. It was the kind of scream that made my throat hoarse after. It was the kind of scream that caused my daughter to nervous laugh and my son, with a face of astounding bewilderment, to follow suit. This upset me even more.
After what I suspect was the result of days or even weeks of festering, built-up frustration and stress, I yelled at my kids as we were trying to head out the door.
Then, the shouting stopped and the burning in my throat subsided. Tears came as immediate guilt set in. An apology of “I’m sorry and I just need you to listen,” escaped my lips. My son pointed at the trail of black mascara lining my cheek as my empathetic daughter’s eyes welled up with tears. Her little hand patted my back. “It’s okay, Mom.”
It was as if the puss had suddenly been released from an infected wound. The built-up intensity that often smolders beneath the surface had escaped.
“Let’s pray,” I suggested. We held hands, making our own mini circle. “When two or more are gathered,” I thought. “Even little hearts count.” I sought forgiveness from the Lord and my kids. I thanked Him for my precious children, whom despite my outburst, I really, truly love. After the cycle of anger, guilt and redemption was complete, I felt my shoulders relax. My body still shaking like it had witnessed a traumatic event, felt lighter as we shuffled out the door.
Leaving Target proved to be rather trying. John scream-cried as I grabbed the bags and swiftly pushed the red cart away from the check stand. I made my way to the exit, ignoring the howls and crocodile tears. My hair was pulled and arms scratched as I wrestled his heavy, wriggling, and oh-so-stubborn, almost three-year-old body into the car seat.
“I just wanted to see something cool!” He wailed.
“I just wanted you to listen,” my mind echoed. How could I blame him after what he had just witnessed his mom do before we left the house. If this tantrum keeps up, maybe I’ll shed those five pounds I’ve gained since summer started just trying to buckle him in.
I find summer to be quilt difficult. I never seem to remember how difficult it can be. The routine has changed for everyone and I find that I am actually the one struggling to adjust the most. My free time seems limited to minutes a day and not even consecutive ones, or late at night if I can stay up that long.
I haven’t been motivated to write or work out. I often question when is the earliest, most socially acceptable time to start drinking wine on a given weekday. Some days all I want to do is curl up and binge watch Outlander. Sometimes it seems my singular goal for the day is when I get to have time to myself.
“Another episode?” my daughter asks.
“Sure.” It gives me more time to just sit here. Am I wasting away a summer with my kids, letting precious memory-filled possibilities slip through the cracks? Instead of waking up with the excitement of a new day, I find myself stressed, tired, lazy, and unmotivated.
What is wrong with me?
My husband reassures me that I’m not a mean mom and when I ask my daughter, she says I seem mostly happy. Yet, I feel all I am doing is constantly correcting behavior, setting or restating boundaries, and saying “don’t do this or that.”
Is this all a mom does? Is it just me because other moms seem calmer than myself? Is this just on the surface? Are they smoldering underneath as well? Are summers just as hard for them?
Maybe this explosion of emotions in front of my kids was the release that finally needed to happen. I do somehow feel lighter. Much like that feather floating in the Forest Gump movie, feeling so heavy and not quite comfortable where I landed, I needed that gust of wind to pick me up and float me off again.
Around the end of July last summer, I wrote about how to avoid the sometimes tempting downward spiral of self-pity. Something to do with the time I year I suppose. My body and mind lull and I’m needing to find motivation and increase my positivity and energy. Much like the green tomato on my windowsill that fell off the tomato plant too early, I need time to redden and ripen in the morning sun.
In the summer blog post I wrote about a year ago, I said that I found scripture, self-care, and friends to be among the things that can remedy my mid-summer slump symptoms. I needed to be reminded of this again.
I had the most comforting thought driving home tonight after spending a couple hours over a couple drinks with some friends. And that is, “I’m not the only one.”
It isn’t just me who is crazy and feeling these feelings. It isn’t just me who feels constantly on edge, impatient, or angry. I’m not the only one who feels that I am in constant output mode with very little received or what seems to be very little to show for it.
My kids aren’t the only ones with difficulties. I’m not the only one who can’t seem to manage my time to workout or read my bible. Summer is difficult for other moms too.
It isn’t just me. I’m not the only one.
It isn’t just you. You are not the only one.
Earlier this summer, I wrote a little story about a trip to Trader Joes. I thought the story in itself held a great theme for the summer. That is, letting the kids be the lead in making the memories. This involves improvising, going with the flow, and not being rushed:
“Today, we went to Trader Joes after a fun summer morning at the park. Normally, when at any grocery store with kids, I put my two, almost three year old son in the shopping cart seat right by me and talk to him about what we need to find. My five year old daughter walks along the side and helps put items in the cart.
This time however, as we approached the entrance and I grabbed my usual big cart, my daughter pleaded to push one of the small kid carts. I didn’t feel like arguing with her because, well, what was my reasoning? That shopping would be harder? That it would take longer? Was I in a rush to leave? It’s summer, what else do I have going on? So I said, “sure,” and waited for what was coming next.
“I want to push a shopping cart too!” my son shouted.
So in we went, two kids, two kids carts, one list, and one mom who prepared herself for this sudden improvisational shopping trip.
I laughed numerous times and apologized to strangers profusely. I directed cart traffic, barked orders, pulled one cart and pushed the other and confiscated extra treats that were snuck in. It took us twice as long at the store, if not longer.
At the end they got to help unload the cart at checkout and received some surprise stickers. I quickly traded in the two little carts for a big one because I was not about to let them out in the parking lot with those things.
With the shopping bags loaded in the big cart, I placed my son back into the cart seat and my daughter held onto the side of the cart. I accepted the receipt and breathed a sigh of relief. Things were back to normal. I was back in my comfortable place as we made our way to the car.
I could have said no to my kids and made them shop in our usual way, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable. Not nearly as special to them. Not to mention, the tantrum or fit that would have ensued had I said, “no.”
Improvisation is never the quick or easy route. It certainly wasn’t quick or easy at TJs today. I shouldn’t always be so quick to say, “no.”
Mothers are the master improvisers, but it’s not always easy. Letting my kids in on the daily music of life or the writing I create, which almost always is inspired by them, will open up more opportunities for improvisation, which could lead to deeper and more meaningful experiences and stories.”
Keeping my kids in the lead on making memories is important to remember here. But more importantly, in order to let them lead, I need to remember to take care of myself.
After my angry outburst that occurred earlier this summer, I have done the things that have proven to help replenish my depleted resources. I have read scripture, met with friends, went on a date with my husband, started working out, and have taken some meaningful time to write, read or just be.
I find myself in the last half of August (say it isn’t so!), in a much better place. We’ve made some wonderful memories and it’s been a good summer.