There are certain times of the day than I find more stressful than others. Normally this correlates precisely with when I need to get all 4 of my children to do things. Get them dressed, out of the door, fed, bathed and into the pyjamas; these are all parenting stress points for me.
Truth be told, I find convincing my children to do things on a daily basis more stressful than 98% of the time that I was working a stressful job in a stressful children’s hospital.
Walking into a heaving children’s ward whilst answering 50 bleeps, juggling some sharp needles and whirling a stethoscope around your head is far more relaxing than attempting to convince my 6 year old that he wants to do something by himself. That he is in fact, perfectly capable of taking off a sock, going to the toilet and blowing his own snotty nose.
At least at work, there is a facade of control.
Where my kids are concerned, that feeling of entire, unlimited, total lack of control does little to aid my stress levels.
I can tell my son to put his shoes on, fifty billion times. Yet when we’re about to step out of the door, I look down and see those little pink toes wriggling devoid of anything resembling the socks or shoes I gave him 5 minutes ago.
I have as much control over my children as I do over a herd of cats.
“I want to wear odd socks, I couldn’t find a pair!” Dante, my 6 year old said.
I would laugh, except at this exact moment my other son, instead of stepping out of the door, has just remembered that he needs an empty plastic bottle to take to school.
And we don’t have one.
In that short space of time he realises that his life has in fact come to an end, he will be banished from school and never find gainful employment.
My stress levels creep up, tipping me over the danger point. Something explodes.
Shouting At Kids Doesn’t Teach them The Right Lessons
I am not proud to say it. I shout at them about how they are not being helpful, about how they need to get themselves dressed in the morning, about how they need to think ahead.
A little voice inside my head is trying to tell me that shouting is only me venting, that I am not teaching them the right sort of lessons.
“I KNOW!” I bellow back at that frustrating internal voice. “You are not helping me by reminding me that I am being a crap parent right now.”
I know that right now I’m not being perfect. I’m not being even half decent. I know that it’s not my children’s fault and shouting isn’t helping at all. In fact, I know I’m being down right lousy.
I know that if we stand ANY chance of actually leaving the house, I have to get myself together and breathe tranquility into my howling child. “I won’t be able to go to school this afternoon!” he panics.
I stop. I breathe. I count to 10.
I compose myself. I apologise.
It’s not the most perfect apology. My blood pressure is still cranked up to colossal and not-exactly-tranquil. My heart beat is still galloping and not-exactly-peaceful. My teeth although not clenched are not-exactly-calm.
It is the best I can manage now.
Better to keep it short and to the point before I start berating my kids for being useless again.
Parents are Not Perfect. We are Human.
I have a tendency to wallow in guilt. To reproach myself for days. (I have to confess, I’ve never noticed such remorse from my children who happily loose control every 5 minutes. That is a post for another day. We are working on Big Emotions.)
I have to remind myself that I am only human. Parents are human and it is much better to be an imperfect parent than a parent who doesn’t try at all.
I remind myself that
- Kids are not that easily scarred. They are actually quite resilient.
- You can’t protect them from everything.
- Nobody’s perfect, not even you.
- All kid’s are different but they have a common theme of chaos, drama and tears.
- Life with children is like a rollercoaster.
Of course that doesn’t mean you should aim to act like a despicable parent all the time. But you can forgive yourself if it happens from time to time.
When Parents Make Mistakes
So remember, you will make mistakes and that’s OK.
- Pick your self up.
- Take a moment to recover.
- Give your kids a cuddle. Or your partner. Or someone. It will help you feel better.
- Apologise if necessary.
- Start again and enjoy the day.
Like a phoenix emerging from a pile of ashes (please tell me you’ve read Harry Potter otherwise you won’t have the faintest idea what I’m talking about)…
Like a phoenix emerging from the soldering ashes, I open my eyes and take control of myself. I speak calmly and reassuringly to my son. We have until 3pm to find an empty bottle. I usher the younger ones out of the door (after finding that one of them has escaped back upstairs claiming that he doesn’t want to go to school today.)
It is not perfect.
It is not the calm, tranquil morning routine that I aspire to. But we made it to school with a cuddle and a loving kiss. My children know that I am not perfect, but I do love them despite their inability to blow their snottynoses.
Happy You, Happy Family
This post isn't based on this book but ff you are looking for a book to help you become the happy parent that you want to be, "Happy You, Happy Family" is an awesome read. Easy to read and actionable ideas, you'll be a happier parent the moment you start to read it. I really enjoyed it and found it very helpful.