A couple of weeks ago, I woke on a Thursday morning with a scratchy throat and some tightness in my chest. From there, it was destined to be the sort of day that starts poorly and goes steadily downhill.
On that day, I was not a good AP mom. I was not a good any kind of mom.
I had ten quiet moments to myself to make my bed and feed my cat before both kids were awake and bouncing off the walls.
On a usual day, I like to get up, shower and dress before my children wake up, and on a really good day, I’ve also eaten something and spent some time on the Internet. Being dressed and ready to go, even if it’s in my gym clothes, helps me to handle their early morning energy more easily.
Only on this day, here were both kids awake and raring to go, and I was still groggy and unshowered, not to mention not feeling well.
Three beverage spills, two tantrums and one time out later, I decided we had to get out of the house and head to the pool. I asked the kids to please start picking up their toys so we could get ready to go, and my son immediately bopped his sister on the head and earned himself another time out. Right after that, my daughter informed me, “No. I’m not going to do it.” And I lost it. As I went stomping into the living room to tell my stubborn daughter that she needed to take off her slippers and start putting her dolls away NOW, I leaned over to scoop up a loose toy and….it happened. One of those freak things. A tiny stray piece of wood that was on the floor was suddenly and painfully jammed up under my fingernail, all the way to the cuticle. It felt like fire. I couldn’t get it out on my own, so I placed a hysterical phone call to my husband, then shaking and crying, bundled both kids into the car and drove to the nearest urgent care center.
In the waiting room, I was short with my kids. While waiting for a nurse to bring me an ice pack, my son told me that he wanted to sit in his sister’s chair and she wouldn’t move. It’s difficult to feel sympathy over a silly sibling squabble when you’re fighting back tears of pain, your finger is swollen to the size of a sausage and your entire hand is throbbing. “Figure it out on your own,” I snapped. “There are eight other empty chairs, pick one and sit in it.”
It continued in the exam room. As I played the guilt game with my kids–the pool would have been more fun, right? So next time do what I say and pick up your toys–a little voice in my head was saying, “Stop talking to your kids that way.” I was not feeling loving and I was not being respectful.
Eventually, the doctor showed up, numbed my finger and cut off part of my fingernail to remove the stick. In the absence of pain, I started to feel some remorse for my behavior that day. Having had some time to reflect on it, I came to the following conclusions. Please understand that I am not trying to make excuses for my behavior; rather, I’d like to identify the reasons my day was so horrible so I can avoid them in the future.
**My morning routine was thrown off. I am a creature of habit, and even one tiny thing throwing off my expectations for my day can send me into a tailspin. I can work on this by being more flexible and looking more closely at my priorities. Is it really the end of the world if the carpet doesn’t get vacuumed?
**I was under the weather. Everything in life, except maybe sleeping, is harder when you don’t feel well. I need to give myself a break. Our shining parenting moments rarely happen in the middle of an Urgent Care center while suffering from acute pain and distress.
**Both kids were overtired. A tired child is a cranky child, and both of mine had not slept well the night before and rose earlier than usual. I need to cut them a little slack too.
**My older child is in a phase where he questions everything and tests every limit. My younger child is feeding off of him and establishing her own independence. The younger one is also old enough to have the communication skills to fight with her brother. This is probably the biggest one. I already know that I have a temper, and an easy way to make it flare is for someone to purposely and willfully ignore my instructions. In addition, I have a very low tolerance for sibling rivalry. Listening to an argument over something as absurd as whose socks are whiter makes my blood pressure go up and my good sense drain away. I need to focus on the fact that, despite what it sometimes feels like, my kids don’t bicker with each other to make me crazy, they’re just being normal siblings. Putting them in charge of their own relationship has helped somewhat. They know that if they can’t come to a mutual conclusion on their own and need me to mediate, there will be consequences, and they usually don’t like them. I just need to find a way to tune out the racket while they figure it out.
Out of my terrible day came a good lesson for all of us.
For me, it’s easy to be a great mom when the kids are behaving and everyone is healthy and well rested and the day is going as planned. It’s not so easy when a person is sick or tired or has a tree limb jammed under her fingernail.
For my kids, they saw that even moms have bad days and they learned that there are consequences for their behavior. (In this case, not picking up the toys caused mom to turn into a crazy crying woman who made everyone go to the doctor for impromptu surgery.) And when we talked about it later, they realized that it’s okay to have a bad day–as long as you apologize to all those you were nasty to at the end of it.
How about you? What are your triggers and how do you make up for a bad day?