When I was a little girl, I loved playing with dolls and Barbies, playing make-believe, playing family. And I assure you, any time I played the “Mommy” then, I was happy mommy, sweet mommy, educational mommy, fun mommy or pretty mommy. I was never mad mommy, scary mommy, ugly bloated and PMS’ing mommy, or overworked and stressed out mommy. Then again, my pretend/dolly babies and kids were super low-maintenance. They were quiet, well-behaved, obedient little sponges. They complied the first time I asked them to do something. They slept through the night from Day 1. They ate when (or if) I decided to feed them. They asked for nothing. They didn’t whine, tattle, complain, talk back (er…talk at all), or fight with siblings. They never peed on my floors or needed me to “wipe” their bums. They didn’t break things, write on my walls or put stickers on the nice furniture. They didn’t sleep (or pee) in our beds…. I could go on but you get the picture.
Fast forward to my teen years:
“Mom, you have a hot temper.”
“I no yoose to hab da hot tempa. I hab da hot tempa apta I habbing you and you bruh-duh!”
(Silently, I’d think, “Mom, I’m pretty sure you had a temper even before we came along.”)
Fast forward to present day Anita:
“I believe. Oh, I so believe you, Mom. I know better now.” Because now, I have three real kids of my own, who are nothing like my old dolly kids. And since my own beautiful monsterhood, oops – I mean motherhood, journey first began, I’ve discovered that:
- My face can be grotesquely contorted into no less than 137 different angry and exasperated “Don’t mess with me” expressions;
- It is possible for the volume of my voice to reach sonic boom magnitude;
- The lines across my forehead aren’t wrinkles; they are permanently indented frown lines (and interestingly, I have three lines – just as I have three kids. Coincidence? I think not);
- Whereas, in my pre-parenting days I used to feel sorry for the kid getting yelled at or yanked by the arm in the grocery store and think to myself, “Wow, chill out, lady”, nowadays my empathy and heart goes out to the crazy mad mom and I think to myself, “Ohhhh, poor mom. She’s having one of those days”; and
- Mommy Time-outs (i.e., mini -Mommy escapes to a locked bedroom, bathroom or closet with a heart-pumping, fist-shaking, hiss-whispered count to ten, a desperate plea to God for help, and a glass of wine, kidding) – can be just as necessary and effective as traditional kid time-outs for calming the inner storm.
Fast forward to Anita only hours ago:
I’m sitting in the MFT’s office for my second therapy session to deal with parenting struggles. And I’m full of renewed joy and hope to be telling her of the immeasurable progress made in just one week. Of course, the week had its share of ups ‘n downs, as we can never predict or control our children’s moods, behavior or reactions at any given time, and it’s hard to kick nasty old habits. Still, this week, I refused to allow my attitude, behavior or responses toward my kids to be ruled by fear (e.g., fear of failing as a parent, teacher or role model; fear that my kid won’t “turn out okay”, whatever that means; fear that my kid’s behavior reflects poorly on us as parents and we’ll be judged accordingly; fear that I’m running out of time to mold them into kind, wise, responsible, empathetic human beings) and instead, I chose to be ruled by love (e.g., grace, mercy, peace, patience, understanding, compassion). There was such a radical difference in my perspective, demeanor and reactions to my kids’ challenging moments that my calmness and patience overflowed into their demeanor and responses!
On a couple occasions this past week, I immediately put down whatever I was doing (which is really hard for busybody taskmaster me) to address a stormy, fit-throwing, seemingly unappeasable and inconsolable child. Instead of impulsively mirroring, or reacting in a flash of anger to, this aggravating fit of rage before me, I gave him/her some space, then calmly asked about the cause of the emotional outburst, acknowledged his/her feelings and how I too would feel the same if I were coming from his/her perspective, continued to validate his/her feelings until he/she truly felt heard and understood, and then introduced perspectives other than his/her own and suggested alternative, more constructive expressions of his/her feelings.
And at the end of the most recent episode, Son actually came back to me and said, “Thanks, Mom. Thanks for being patient with me and for waiting until I was ready to consider what you were trying to teach me.” In case you missed it, that’s pure gold right there. These are the moments that make all the rest of it worthwhile. Today was a good day. Tomorrow can be another. But if tomorrow doesn’t turn out to be another good day, don’t be so hard on yourself. There’s always the next day. And the next.
A sassy but soulful attorney-turned-cray-at-home mom, Anita tries to be a good wife, mom, daughter, friend, neighbor, citizen and rep for Jesus. She succeeds roughly 63.4% of the time. The other 36.6%, the selfish, impatient and impulsive girl inside takes over and she has to start over again, with the help (and by the grace) of a faithful God. She might have a redeeming quality or two, but most importantly, she is redeemed, thanks to Jesus. Click here for more blogs by Anita Lee.