I subscribe to a “progressive parenting” newsletter called The Daily Groove by Scott Noelle. A recent article reminded me to forgo goals of “perfect parenting” and instead look for the valuable lessons learned when I experience a bad mama moment. I had the opportunity to put this into practice yesterday.
The kids had been up ridiculously late the night before, I’d been woken up very early and was unable to fall back asleep so I just got up. Consequently, DS was up much earlier than usual and I ended up waking DD a while later. I was tired and grumpy. DS screeched his way through the whole morning, DD cried whenever she couldn’t have her way (admittedly, the way I related that information to her was not very tactful) and I successfully suppressed the urge to scream at the top of my lungs “Shuuuuuut UP!!!”. Somehow I managed to get us all out of the house by 10 am in sheer desperation, and we headed to the Aquarium.
Now that we are down to a single stroller DD has to walk when we’re out on foot. We haven’t been doing as much walking lately as we used to, which might explain the apparent decrease in her stamina (either that or she is just grumpy). She complained before we were even halfway there, begging to be in the stroller. I decided to let DS out to walk because it occurred to me that perhaps these late nights are due to not enough physical exertion during the day. But having him walk is hard for me because he wanders off. The seawall we walk along to get to the Aquarium has an elevated path for cyclists and bladers, and of course that is where DS wanted to be. Then we get to the part where there is a low wall along the water side of the seawall and he wants to walk on that. I need to hold his hand, of course, but I can’t push the stroller with DD in it (she jumped in the second DS was out) with just my left hand, so I need her to get out. Insert screaming match. I end up scolding, threatening to go home…not pretty.
At the Aquarium itself things went well. I was pleasantly surprised that DS wasn’t as much of a handful as in past times. Mostly he went in the same direction we did, rather than rushing off in the exact opposite direction. Thank heaven for small mercies; the light at the end of the tunnel might just be showing itself! We stayed for a few hours and then began the walk home.
The major incident occurred after we’d stopped by a grassy hill to let the kids run up and down it (DS loves running downhill). Eventually it was time to keep going. I scooped up a protesting, squirming 35lb DS but DD went and sat in the stroller before I could get to it. I asked her to get out and she refused, then began kicking DS to push him away. I lost it. I put him down, grabbed her out of the stroller, he of course ran off, I ran to grab him and DD began to get in the stroller again – using DS as a battering ram I pushed her out of the stroller. Cue two children crying and screaming while tourists pass us by. I start walking away with the stroller because DS is trying to slide out of it, but DD has collapsed in a sobbing heap on the sidewalk screaming “don’t leave me!”. I’m sure the passing tourists found it all rather amusing. Or horrid. Either way I felt on parade and I was embarassed on the inside while feeling unable to control myself on the outside. However, hearing DD’s plaintive cry seemed to break through the shell of my anger and exhaustion. I wheeled DS over to her, picked her up and sat down with her to have a snuggle. She has begun to call me on my bad parenting moves – “Mama, why are you being so hurtful? Why are you yelling at me?”. Wow. Nothing like your 4 year old pointing out the error of your ways. So, we snuggled, I apologized, and off we went.
That night, after DS was asleep, DD crawled into bed with me, snuggled against me under the covers and out of the blue she said “Mama, I’m sorry I couldn’t get out of the stroller”. Oh geezus. I wanted to cry, I felt so guilty. But I didn’t want to dissolve into a pathetic heap – I don’t think 4 year olds really want to know how vulnerable their mothers are. So I apologized to her, too. And I asked myself “what have I learned from this”. First, I was reminded that kids her age act largely on impulse, and her inability to let her own needs go to accomodate mine and DS’s was not an act of defiance or disobedience on her part. I was also proud of DD. She’d obviously been thinking about what happened, and I’m really proud of how she calls me on it when I’m losing my temper. I’m proud that she feels safe doing that.
And then as we drifted off to sleep, I thought about how glad I was to be a SAHM, and to be able to go through these things *with* my kids. I’m glad I’m the one who is there when they lose control. I’m glad it’s me who is dealing with the challenges of their behaviours. This is what life is all about, and I can’t imagine missing out on all these little experiences. I feel blessed to be learning right along with them.