For When There Are Hard Times in the Mother Hood
The morning you locked yourself in the powder bathroom because you could not trust your self-control to trump your anger at the raging child you love but really, really can't stand right now. You feel guilt as you feel vindication at the thought of dropping their angry self off at the side of the road and driving away....
The moment when you said "shut up" under your breath after their rage passed and they heard you and cried. You couldn't believe what a dark person you are to have let this slip and then seep into their heart. What a heel of a mom.
The time you fantasized about asking to borrow the rose colored glasses of the older lady at Target who told you to "enjoy these days" after your hour long struggle to keep your little beggars from springing out of the red cart so that you could throw them on the ground, crush them with your sneakered foot and hand them back to the nice woman while saying, "I think you forgot what life really looks like right now".
The hour after your good man came home from a trip with you expecting him to patiently take over the deafening circus and he lost his cool in the chaos and he isn't able to make the transition seamlessly. OR he comes home and all the rascallions suddenly turn into little obedient darlings and their father turn's into Mister Rodgers, beloved and adored. What the heck? Either way, you're peeved and he can't win.
Or maybe it's one of the many times you find yourself around other families, whose children listen the first time, don't throw food across the table and generally act like the civilized offspring of successful parents who have parented well. You try to interact and pretend your children do not need to be reigned in, but every five minutes you dart out of the conversational circle because it IS your monkey and it IS your circus, darn it! And you realize that maybe a total revamp of the training program you've been using is in dire need.
Every scenario is different, because none of us or our landscapes look exactly the same. Yet there are seasons in the Mother Hood when, if we choose to be honest, the inside of our tent looks eerily the same. I am here today without a shred of parenting advice because when you're knee deep in monkey crap, you really just don't want that before feeling understood. Here are three simple tools for survival I've found for when hard times set in:
1. You, specifically, were given this child/children on purpose.
You weren't a random choice. God doesn't have His fingers crossed, hoping he made a decent pairing. You've GOT THIS because He made you strong enough to handle the hard. Do not force yourself to be someone else. Ask God to break your vices and help hone the virtues. It likely will be a messy and unflattering process, but anything worthwhile usually is. And let your children know that you know you aren't perfect. Ask for forgiveness when needed and claim your loving, imperfect, God-inspired authority the rest of the time. The childhood your children are living are the only ones they know. I know I often project my insecurities about my inability to spend one-on-one time on them (each mother has her own worries), but they only know what they know, and they know they are loved by an imperfect mother. Trust God in all of this. He's got your back.
2. Be honest.
Several weeks ago, sitting in the waiting room of the play therapist I am taking one of my children to, I met the mama of another child who was there. We introduced ourselves and in no time, we couldn't talk fast enough, comparing notes of what we were dealing with. I realized more than anyone, I needed the therapy ...and her ability to absolutely relate with me was exactly what I needed. Neither of us gave advice or pretended to have nice, neat answers. But I am quite sure we both walked out of there feeling understood, with our frustrations eased by being validated. I haven't seen or talked with her since, but it was the shot of encouragement I needed right at that moment and thanked God for it. I also thank him for the close friends I can text/call in the moments when I feel I'm at the Crazy Train station, ready to be picked up and carried away forever. They let me say bad things and know 75% of it I do not mean. They don't try and give advice. They are simply there. And when you have that safety net, you cling to it and you return the favor as much as you possibly can. If you do not have this, make it your fervent prayer that God brings it to you. Friends and strangers who listen and understand are God's tangible hugs...but in order to receive them, one must be willing to be honest.
I know. This is pretty basic, but when I am stressed, I forget to breathe in deeply. Half the time, my shoulders are tensed up, hovering around my ears and at the sound of hidden candy wrappers being fondled in the pantry or the refrigerator door being opened for the twentieth time after I've given out plenty of snacks. Remembering (which I rarely do) to stop and take a few deep breaths helps me take pause. I know it's not always possible when you have really small children to lock yourself in your room or bathroom, but if you can (cribs! pack and plays! let them cry!), give yourself a time-out and just breath. Maybe sniff some lavendar or peppermint...or roll around in a vat of it.
Just don't forget to come for some air.
Somehow how, it helps.
As you can see, this is not a blog of ground-breaking answers, mainly because the author is still in the trenches herself. Besides, empathy is far weightier currency than answers when it comes to getting through hard times in the hood.
One more thing. Feel free to borrow and repeat my mantra as often as you need to: