But sometimes I am. I wish I knew how not to be. As I start to write this it is 9:41 pm. The kids have been in bed for over an hour, and in the last few moments the upstairs has finally gone quiet. My little boys, who most days go down easily and I’m only called with one or two “Beckett’s out of bed!” calls from Brogan, really pushed the envelope tonight (to the tune of 11 trips up stairs to put someone back in bed). But the antics were not just at bedtime. It was all afternoon, really. They fought with each other – hit, scratched, bit, screamed, spanked (yes, Brogan actually spanked his brother), and closed fingers in doors. All. Freaking. Afternoon. And they didn’t listen to me when I told them to stop. At all. Now, I don’t expect perfection out of a 2 and 4 year old, but the blatant disobedience and disrespect is unacceptable. And sometimes, sometimes, they get me to a point and I become that mom I never wanted to be… the one that screams and yells and loses her cool. The one that sets a bad example for how one should react under stress. The mom whose screaming is in vein because they misbehave despite it. But sometimes that’s me. Tonight that was me.
As I sit here in silence trying to calm myself down, it’s easy to think about how I could of handled the dozens of situations that arose tonight better. But maybe not. Would a cool voice of reason really made Brogan stop hopping from seat to seat in the van and actually sit in his car seat?? Would it have made Beckett stop biting his brother’s rear end mid-chomp?? I try the stern voice, but for me the stern voice very easily crosses the line to raging lunatic voice after only a few failed attempts. The problem is that my boys don’t want to behave for good behavior’s sake. There has to be something in it for them. Either something they’ll get if they are good, or something they’ll lose if they are bad. And I use that as ammo at every juncture as I try to get them to fall in line. But sometimes I screw up and throw out a reward or a consequence that I don’t really want to follow through with. But I really, really try to follow through. And so I find myself in a situation where I want them to behave because 1) whatever they are doing is wrong/annoying/dangerous/etc. and 2) if they don’t act right I’ll have to do this thing that I really don’t want to do. So please, son, please, for the love of God, do what I say! And now we have entered the crazy cycle. The one where I’m desperate and irrational, which makes my kids desperate and irrational and it’s a battle of the wills to see who will win. Well if there is one thing I am, it’s competitive, and this mommy gonna win. But it comes at a price. A pretty hefty one sometimes. Yes, the kids eventually did what I said. But tonight it was just not pleasant around here. For Brogan, for Beckett, for me or Berkley (the poor baby in my belly wondering what’s all that crazy going on out there?!?). The experts who write the parenting books would say should choose your consequences wisely and you should always be consistent. I agree. But the reality is that sometimes it’s like you’re in battle and while occasionally the “perfect” tactic/reward/punishment/bribe comes across your lips, most the time it’s the first damn thing that comes to your mind and it’s not always very good. And consistency is great too. But sometimes “consistently” pulling the car over on the side of the road when the kids start screaming does not work when you’re on the interstate. Sorry, it just doesn’t. And so like most parents, I live in this world where there are all the “right” things you should do (and things you should never do), but then we’re thrust into real life with kids who have not read the memo. They don’t care. And we lose our cool and we scream and we yell because we can’t figure out why in the world doing all the “right” things isn’t working for our kids. It is a beautiful, frustrating thing, this job as a parent.
So what to do… not quite sure. But I am aware. They say knowing you have a problem is the first step to solving it. Check. But I wish I knew what to do differently. But I’ll try. I’ll take more deep breaths. I’ll try not to sweat the small stuff. I’ll try to pick my battles carefully. I’ll try to only give consequences I can live with. I’ll try to not take it personal and think that all of their disobedience is about defying me and that maybe, just maybe, it’s about them trying out their own independence. I’ll try to recall my childhood and remember what it was like to be yelled at – how it could ruin my day and make me feel sad. I’ll try to remember that maybe if I didn’t try to control so much, they would not feel the need to rebel so much and perhaps, perhaps, they might finally just do the right thing.
So this is why I write. I started this post feeling stressed and tense and remorseful. And I’m ending it feeling motivated and hopeful and positive. Perhaps in my reflection I have solved my own problem (maybe)… and given myself some perspective. Regardless, I am a big believer of one’s attitude about a situation being more important than the situation itself. So I’ll just keep drinking my own Kool-Aid. And always keep trying.