Or something like that ;) Tuesday I had a really rough day with the girls. I pushed them too hard in the morning going to IKEA in
It all ended in tears and tantrums... first Zoë, then Clara, then Mommy. When Josh came home, we were a total mess. I had given him a warning by calling him and begging him to stop and buy me beer. This is Mommy code for the sh*t has hit the fan. He sent me upstairs -- Mommies need time outs too. As I sat there on the bathroom floor with the shower going for noise suppression I was reminded of a piece I heard on NPR a couple of weeks ago about mindfulness and the part I remembered was to note emotions as I felt them. So I took a moment to acknowledge how I was feeling- no judgement, just acknowledge. It went something like this: Angry, sad, angry, angry, frustrated, sad, sad, sad.... much like another piece on NPR someone mentioned to me about the science of tantrums. Lightbulb.
I calmed myself oddly easily at that point and the rest of the evening went pretty well. The girls were still acting insane because of what we had gone through earlier, but my patience had returned and I sent Josh off to the gym. I was in that great place of parenting where I had just had a really really bad moment. I was feeling remorseful and introspective and I wanted to think about how I can handle things differently so we don't explode again. Not that we can ever avoid conflict -- some days just suck. Clara wakes up in a mood and I'm in the same mood, you know some days just don't work. But it's those times where I have to put on my big girl pants, be the grown up, and turn it around.
Oddly the blogs I read seemed to sense my need for introspection and good planning. Yesterday I saw this post that talks about how to improve your emotional state. I think it will be really helpful in the future when we both wake up on the wrong side of the universe. This post reminded me that I could always try to get the girls involved in the projects that I'm working on in the house-- or their own projects while I'm working on something else. It's a little more challenging when I'm painting, but there are lots of things that they can do.
While I am not in love with home decorating, I've always been a fan of cake decorating. And one of the things I know made Tuesday so difficult was lack of food. Hungry = cranky for pretty much everyone I know. So goal one for Wednesday was food. When I saw this I made a list and went off to the market. I mean, it just looked so delicious and the girls adore strawberries. I decided to see if Clara would be into decorating the cake and happily she was in the perfect mood to learn a few new things (if her teacher was going to be calm and nice, that is) I taught her to use the hand mixer and she made the whipped cream. Zoë sugared the strawberries and Clara decorated the cake herself. It was delicious.
As much as I really hate those terrible moments on the bathroom floor where I have to admit that I've done it again, I really love the focus it gives me to find ways to improve how I behave. I have to hope that while I know I'm modelling some pretty crappy behaviors that I am also showing them how to make amends and how to change their behavior. Parents are human -- fallible and broken at times. We all can learn how to do things better. There are always times where we look back and think, "I didn't handle that moment in the best way possible." The whole concept of improving my communication skills in a mindful way didn't even occur to me until I was doing therapy in my early 20s. At least my girls will start that process early.
Recently, in response to this post some friends of mine have expressed to me essentially, "Wow -- you doubt you are a good parent? I totally look up to you!" Which of course is delightful and affirming to hear, but my response is of course I doubt myself. When I'm teaching my knitting class and people ask me how I got so good at this knitting thing, or they express surprise when I talk about how I screw up my knitting. My response is of course I make mistakes. When I make mistakes I learn how to fix them. I am the queen of making mistakes. I think a lot about something my friend says her mom told her all the time growing up -- we learn more from our failures than our successes. This sounds trite, but so true. I fail a lot. But this just gives me the opportunity to learn and learn and learn.
So Clara and Zoë, pay attention! This is how being a person on this planet works: You get up in the morning and sometimes everything goes smoothly and you feel like you are on top of the world, awesome, enjoy it. Sometimes everything sucks and you feel like crap. These are the best moments. Look at what happened and think about how you can change your response. Ask for help and advice and keep tweaking. You'll never get it right, but you will always get better. The process of getting better is called "growing up". Guess what, you'll never finish, but don't worry, I'll help you along the way. I'm getting pretty good at getting better.