The night my parenting went bad

I can rattle off all the lines:

*He’s not giving me a hard time; He’s having a hard time

*Big emotions make for big reactions

*Children are sponges of our words and mirrors of our behaviour

*The way we speak to our children becomes their Inner Voice

A quote by Rebecca Eanes hit me like a brick,

“So often, children are punished for being human. They are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones or bad attitudes. Yet, we adults have them all the time. None of us are perfect. We must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves.”

The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting,

By no means is this a suggestion to have lesser expectations of our children and their behaviours but, really its a call to turn the microscope back on ourselves as the adults driving this relationship. All I can say, is that poor DSX, at the moment, he’s being set up to hear a hydra coming at him.

I realise that DSX and I are going to clash at times. The perfect storm is when both of us are tired. Cue hot weather, illness, long days, or heavy family stress loads. This year, we’ve had it all and clashed frequently.

And I hate it.

DSX is sensitive. He has Big emotions and a vocabulary that isn’t quite there yet to back it up. At the moment, it feels like a particularly challenging phase. Just when you think one phase has passed, another phase begins.

DHB is the more ‘relaxed’ of us. He’ll glaze over some things that I get turned inside out about. He’s the calm when I’m beginning to boil and steam. Then, the tables will turn and, guiltily, I’m relieved to see DHB lose his calm once in a while because otherwise, I feel like I’m the only one who cares.

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For DSX, much of our conflict comes when we don’t adequately explain something, such as, when we’ve changed an expected outcome. Our current dilemma comes with daylight savings. The days are lo-o-o-ong. We are all tired. Very tired. Particularly on hot days. Bedtime, shower time is in daylight.

Yeah, yeah, do they really need to have a shower everyday? In my world, having a shower at the end of the day signals exactly that, the end of the day. Do they really need a bedtime? Yes, I have a not 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. Uninterrupted, both boys will sleep for a solid 12 hours, they need to sleep. We have quiet time during the day but, it’s not enough to make up for sleep. A broken night or, a lost hour in the morning for whatever reason can compound the tetchiness of the evening routine. For them and me.

Then there is ‘the’ blow-up.

The dummy-spit out of proportion.

It will take less than 2-minutes for me to wreck a perfectly good day.

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I can see that he is tired. If the whiney voice and bottom lip haven’t warned me, the dark and red-rimmed eyes are a dead giveaway. I want him through the shower after DSS.

Note, I want.

It’s already after 7pm. and we have all been awake since 6am. Dinner is done, its time to park the toys, come in and get ready for wind down time. DSX wants to stay out longer playing with a new toy (the benefit of a little brother birthday is that there are new things to enjoy). I already have DSS in the shower and for brevity and organisation I need DSX nude and lined up ready to go in after DSS. I’ve given a 5-minute warning. Softly softly, we can play more tomorrow. Stamp of the foot by DSX. Drop of voice by me. 3-minute warning. I’m tired of being polite, ‘make a good choice…time to make a better choice’. It’s been a long day and having a shower is not a new phenomenon. It’s time to pack away and go for a damn shower. So its a battle of wills. 2-minute warning. I pull the increasingly grumpy, now louder growly voice, and begin to feel the hair on the back of my neck prickle. I should walk away now.

DSX physically digs his heels in at the door. I physically take him by the arm and half lift him, half drag him proximate to the bathroom. DHB coaxes him in the bathroom where he at least strips down and stands there. Head down, arms crossed, skinny little suntanned bod doing whatever he can to remain in control of his situation. DSS gets out of the shower. DSX grudgingly steps in but, stands to the edges, avoiding the stream of water at all costs. The phone rings in the background. I’m being rough with both of them with my actions and my words trying to be the all efficient Mum who has children who do as they are told when they are told. Not sure in which parallel universe I have concocted that image. I don’t think I’ve breathed a proper breath since I started the shower running. DSX is still abstaining from actively having a shower. DHB takes over. Probably for the best. I don’t know how DHB does it but, DSX gets out of the shower sudsed and rinsed.

DSX still has his head lowered, arms still crossed over himself, his posture closed off, little jaw clenched and words muffled into his chest. It might not sound like much but the body language says DSX is hurt.  On the inside. I recognise damage I have done and I shut down on myself; shut them out. I’m already thinking about an Alfie Kohn quote (that I’ve paraphrased), is it possible that what I just did with DSX has more to do with my needs (I’m tired and want grown-up time), my fears (I’m not in control), and my own upbringing than with what’s really in his best interests?

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I love him but, crap, he drives me nuts. He can push my buttons like none other. The irrational part of me just turns into a bully. I use a forceful (dare I say scary) voice, my tone deepens and lowers, trying for control. I physically get inside his space to take him by the arm and move him to where I want him to be, physically trying to gain control. I then have the shits with myself for being the lesser person because I lost control. For not dealing with the situation with more Earth Mother calm. My impatience, and desire to remind myself who is the adult in the room ultimately proves the opposite.

Part of me wants to chuck the bedroom routine out the window. Whats the worst that could happen? But instead, right now, I need to re-connect with DSX. Find a way to find the words that he’ll understand that Mummy got grumpy but, Mummy loves him. It’s about Mummy being tired, about Mummy not having enough tools in her parenting toolbox to negotiate the bumps and whoopses that happen. Mummy was reacting. Pure and simple. Mummy was not being a nice human to the person she dearly wants to be nicest to.

So, we have a cuddle, I try to find the words, we watch an episode of Peter Rabbit, read some stories and we negotiate toothbrushing and getting into bed without any more grumpiness.

I say, “I love you” and I really mean it.

Then I write this, have a cry for myself because I feel like crap and I’m ashamed of my behaviour. Then I remember that tomorrow the sun will rise and I can try to be a better person. Be the Mum I aim to be. Tomorrow.

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Pictures by Simply Pure Photography, Dubbo.

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6 thoughts on “The night my parenting went bad

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  1. I really loved this blog Em! Made me tear up. I am feeling exactly the same atm with Bella!! I feel so guilty when I get cross but it’s so hard when they are pushing all your buttons. Bed time at our house is horrendous. I need a new approach. What did you decide to do?

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  2. We have all been there! Let’s just continue to try our best. I think you are one step ahead a lot of parents these days with your parent book reading. Reminds me, I best get back to mine! Love your work!

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  3. Emily-what an insightful little peak into each of our Mama minds. Thank you for being candid about the experience of mothering. That entire scene could and has been me at some point, with a 4 and 7 year old. And each day, I too, hope to take what I learn and navigate this parenting thing more effectively, more compassionately. Cheers! Well done!

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  4. I am soo much in the same position,and I can totally see myself through each word, I don’t know what happens to us “Moms” and we lose control, and then feel guilty about what we did or said, and then cry and feel and hope that deep down our kid understands we really Love them.

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