Dinner’s just begun and already there’s big trouble. Grumpy faces, slouching backs. Elbows on the table, spilled parmesan and blueberries. I’m a broken record of “please sit down” and “eat your vegetables,” tired of listening to myself. And dinner’s not half over.
Every parent knows this scene, this vibe, of tempers flared and days unraveling. By evening, we count up our infractions, our impatience and mistakes, regrets played out like a barbed-wire rosary.
Tomorrow, we’ll do better.
But the next day starts with grumbles, spilled orange juice and chores undone. My kids wait until I’m in the shower before they start to fight. Covered with shampoo, I’m a rotten referree. The screaming escalates. Here we go again.
Before I became a mother, I didn’t know that it was possible to growl like a bear and howl like a banshee inside a single breath. It’s not my kids you hear — no, that’s me, in rising decibles. And it’s not a skill I wanted either, just a side benefit of exhaustion.
If you’re a parent, you’ve had Those Days. All your clothes are flecked with someone else’s snot. The only language your kids speak is Whine. The house looks like a hurricane married to a tornado. Tears — yours and theirs — are flowing. That’s when you need to turn the day around, paint it fresh. As part of my continued series on inspiration, I invite you to Be Inspired in the messiest moments of parenting.
~ Stop Right There. Tuesdays are high-octane in our house, a combo of homeschool lessons, homeschool group, ballet and musical theater, supplemented on my part by large doses of caffeine. Sometimes we careen around the house like hobbled acrobats with no net.
In such unfocused, unfastened moments, it helps to stop completely, freeze the pace, switch gears. Play a quick board game. Read a book together. Share a hug. Stop the frenzy in mid-chaos and regroup, gather together, take a breath, and start again — more slowly this time, please.
~ Whisper, Whisper. My daughters, like most siblings, love each other with ferocious glee. And they fight like gladiators in a ring. They swing in seconds from a bear hug to a brawl.
They are full of spirit — that’s what we tell ourselves on the good days. On the bad days, I worry they might in fact be plotting to unhinge me.
Here’s my sneak attack. Instead of yelling (yet again), I whisper. To hear me, they have to stop their shouting. The novelty is enough to knock them off the battle track. A rub on the back, a hug, a squeeze and we all return to the day, embracing the gifts that quiet brings.
~ Play it Again, Mom. In our house, the weekdays start with literature at 8 am. Then it’s on to reading, grammar, writing, spelling lists, and math. After that, it’s history or science, then Latin, and sometimes art or music. As their teacher and their mom, I sometimes lose the line between discipline and encouragement. I shim-sham between stern and soft, without a proper anchor. In any household, it’s a challenge to walk the balance between help and hindrance, between pushing too hard or not hard enough.
If I’m feeling like the air itself is heavy, I lighten it with play. I sing instructions to the girls, instead of speaking. I make a game of clean-up. I say yes, unexpectedly, instead of no. I turn the living room into a fort or the bedroom into a witch’s cave. Play is what my kids do best. If I join them in that magical land, we meet our goals and we reconnect, happier than before.
Parenting isn’t rocket science. It’s even harder. Long days stretch out, sticky with regret, hot with tempers and impatience.
Other days are golden. Boo Monkey smiles through the new gap in her front teeth and tells me about her imaginary crocodile, the one that changes colors, depending on what he eats. Rainbow Girl invents a dreamworld where her toy horse comes to life and carries her through meadows filled with marigolds and tulips.
It’s then I understand. I know. My girls may have a growly-banshee mama, but they also have spirit and imagination. And that comes, in part, from me. Just then, just there inside that blink, I’m grateful for it all.
If you have kids at home, how do you manage the sticky-temper days? Or, if your kids are grown, please share your best tricks and wisdom. If you don’t have kids, tell us how you manage to regroup when life itself is a growly-banshee howl.
For more in the Be Inspired series, click here.