Seems like a theme here, these days. Well, we are certainly having challenging times chez Mom, JD.
Yesterday was one of those off days that just make you (or me, at least) want to tear your hair out. One of those days that brings you to tears at the thought of how hard this being away from home gig is sometimes. One of those days that require hugs & chocolate & wine at the end of it.
I try not to expect too much from T or from an evening. I had to stay late at work & had just a few minutes to play with him after I got home before bed time. It’s ok. It happens, right?
Well, I’ll just say it didn’t end well for any of us when I lost my cool at T’s bed time. Bed time has always (& I mean always… at least as long as bed time has been a thing, meaning once T got to be around 7 months old…) been a huge source of frustration for me.
So what went wrong? My analytical side wants to get to the bottom of this!
Mistake #1: Playing football right before bed time. T has so much energy that I sometimes make the mistake of thinking he needs to get it all out before he’ll even consider settling down for sleep or a nap.
Au contraire! Tickling & tackling is not a prelude to quiet for my sensitive, spirited boy! (I highly recommend Raising Your Spirited Child for this & other insights into how spirited-ness works.)
A board game or a puzzle or putting the finishing touches on our worm compost bin… Any of these would have been a better choice. In fact, the night before we sat cuddled on the couch, marking T’s wish list of projects in a book with post-its… That was a great before-bed-time activity & he went quietly to sleep, without protest, shortly after. If only!
So he was riled up.
Mistake #2: Expecting to take care of stuff in the kitchen, watch Downton Abbey, & enjoy some time with MFA Dad after getting home so late.
I accept that things come up at work that require me to stay late sometimes. MFA Dad is understanding & flexible.
When this happens, I need to be able to adjust expectations & prioritize! (Hitting my head on a brick wall…)
I thought T (who is an emotional & irrational 3-year-old!) would understand & oblige. He was tired, hadn’t napped. Of course he’d go down like a lamb while I strained broth from the slow cooker & poured myself a glass of wine.
Ha ha! Joke’s on me!
Mistake #3: Not communicating with MFA Dad when it became apparent T wasn’t going to cooperate after all & my temper became short.
There must be another mistake in there somewhere… Oh, right…
Mistake #4: Being a Scorpio. I admit, I am a Scorpio in every way… Quiet but explosive.
Ok. I think that covers the mistakes.
As MFA Dad kindly reminded me, we working moms tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves & doing so isn’t wise. It’s hard to explain or understand.
I mean, on most days MFA Dad is managing T’s (sometimes endearing) insanity for 6 hours out of the day before I stroll in. He gets frustrated, too.
But somehow I expect that my 2, maybe 3, hours in the evening are going to be special. Or, if not special, I at least expect that I can be a
great good mother for such a short period. Most evenings, I’m alright. (Deep breathing on the 5-minute walk from the train to home can help a lot.)
Other times… not so much.
Sometimes it’s not so easy to wash off the stress or mental exhaustion of a challenging day at work. Sometimes I’m preoccupied. Sometimes T is set on pressing buttons & challenging limits. Sometimes he just doesn’t want to sleep.
When things turn sour, it’s mostly on me. I can determine (not just control) my reactions & emotional responses.
I can also choose to lower or re-set my expectations.
Also, as MFA Dad also reminded me (he always has the right thing to say!), this period of intensely needing us, needing us physically close, is so short-lived & we are, in fact, on the downward slope. He is moving toward independence each day & we will mourn the day he no longer asks us into his room or bed or wild nighttime outbursts.
So where to go from here, though? How do we recover as a family, as a parent-child unit, when tempers flare? Next up…