Parents, we’ve all been there. That moment when you’ve crossed the line – and both you and your darling cherub have realised it.
Tonight I had that moment. Mr. 6-going-on-13-year-old-girl-with-attitude had been pushing my buttons all day (come to think of it all week). You know the constant arguments, the ‘it’s not fair and the ‘you’re so mean’? It had been a big solo parenting week for me with Mr Key to Kids working long hours at work, and me left on the forefront of the ‘Me vs Them’ battlefield.
Like most nights, my dinner was met with complaints of ‘you know I don’t like capsicum!’ and looks of disgust as they shoveled it reluctantly into their mouths. In our house, after dinner it is the responsibility of the ‘eater’ to remove plates and scraps from the table to make the maid’s life easier – oh, did I say maid? I meant MY life easier. Mr. 6 charged off as I called after him ‘Your plate is on the table’, to which he replied ‘So. I’m too tired to put it in the sink!’
Enter said moment.
Now, to the reader, his words might not seem that big a crime. To a person dropping in, this might seem fair enough. However, to ME, the person who had been waiting on him hand and foot and dealing with a barrage of complaints and attitudes for the day – and the week – this was the last straw. I immediately launched into a sarcastic lecture beginning with ‘Oh, you’re tired? YOU are tired…..?’
It continued on with a whole heap of reasons why HE had no right to be tired and why I had every reason to be tired. It listed how I had done nothing but kind things for him today and he had given me grief. I reminded him of all the things he’d done ‘wrong’ today. I told him how I am sick of his attitude. I may have even slipped into a bit of ‘when I was a child…’
The problem – I lost him. He wasn’t listening and he didn’t care. My rant may have been making me feel better but to him it was blah, blah, blah – or even worse… ‘I am a bad person, I have upset Mum… she doesn’t love me’. I didn’t acknowledge his feelings in this situation and I completely caved into my exhaustion from the week.
Perhaps you’ve crossed the line with screaming. Or smacking. Or embarrassing your child. The problem is IT DOESN’T WORK. It makes all involved feel ineffective, frustrated or damaged.
The good news – we can make things better. Tomorrow is always another day, and when another situation arises (and it will) we can make a plan on how we can better handle it. We can practice and rehearse. We can give ourselves another chance, just as we give our kids another chance.
We need skills as parents – there are no quick fixes and there are no manuals to understand the workings of our children. Skills will help us make that plan for future. Oh, and lets be kind to ourselves. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break.