Could Someone Please Put Mom In A Timeout?

One day, I tossed three riding toys down the basement steps and shrieked at my kids, “I hope they break, so you can never ride them again!” It wasn’t my best parenting moment. You’d think three riding toys for three kids would be a perfect arrangement, but they still have knock-down-drag-out fights over them! After an entire day of it, this mommy lost all perspective, love, or logic, and snapped.

The kids watched me, bemused, then shrugged and went back to playing. I felt like a bad parent, until I told my husband and he laughed. Then, another friend
laughed. I posted it on Facebook and got a supportive response. In the end, I learned four things from my tantrum: I’m not the only parent to snap
occasionally; it won’t put my children in therapy; they’ll just find something else to fight about; and that particular method of releasing my stress didn’t
help me feel better, just guilty.

So, what’s the answer? I had a moment this morning, when I realized the advice I had just dished out to my kids applied to me as well. (Don’t you cringe when
that happens?) The 4 year old was spastic about the twins bothering her corner of the sandbox, and screamed at them to stay away whenever they came too close. That, of course, made them more inclined to investigate. I suggested that she could nicely tell them she had worked really hard on her project and to please not touch it. The twins were happy to oblige and even praised her hard work. Seeing that almost made me choke on my own words. It reminded me that shrieking at my kids accomplishes nothing, and may just antagonize them to give me a bigger fight. My job is to teach them how to relate to others with respect, and how to take responsibility when they fail. Which means I need to model it.

That sounds beautiful, but since none of us are saints, how does a mere human parent do it? I’ve been trying to identify my triggers for a tantrum, and the biggest is when I feel I’m losing control. Fighting, screaming kids sure do that! Now, I figure if no one is bleeding, I can take a minute to put myself in timeout to gather my wits before jumping into the fray. I’m not this self-aware every time, but the times I’ve remembered to step back and be the adult have ended better.

My tribe also tends to fight when they’re bored. We’re experimenting with a “Help, we’re bored and driving mom insane” jar, from which the kids can pick ideas for fun things, like animal charades; playing Duck, Duck, Goose; finding a toy for each color of the rainbow; and making up a song, to name a few. The ideas only take a few minutes to do, but it’s enough to reset all our buttons and bring fun back into the house.

The other crucial element is whether I’ve had a break and some adult interaction to feed my soul. I behave much better when I take time away each week, even an hour, to play with the passions I had before children. The kids are almost my entire existence right now, but soon enough they’ll be off on their own and
I’ll be lost if I don’t maintain my identity apart from them. My 4 year old tells people that I go away to write because it makes me “a better mommy.”  She’s right! I don’t find that offensive in the least, and hope it means she’s learning something to apply to her own life when she’s a mommy to my grandbabies.

Of course, there are some days when nothing helps, and we just muscle through each agonizing minute until bedtime. And then I tuck in each of my beautiful,
maddening, independent, strong-willed children; give them a big kiss; give thanks for the ways in which they’re forging me into a better person; and murmur
a wish that they someday have children who will behave just like them.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lynda Olsen
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 21:47:21

    As usual, you are ‘right on’ Abby. I did thoroughly enjoy the humor and the wisdom in this latest blog. Thanks so much for sharing your talent.
    Lynda

    Reply

  2. Debbie
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 08:08:41

    Perfect insight! I love it. And, if it helps at all, your last thought in this blog will become a reality. My grandson’s fathers now note a certain expression on my face from time to time and remark “You are really enjoying this aren’t you, Mom” My answer “I’ve been waiting for this moment
    for years!”

    Reply

  3. neva Jones Pavia
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 16:37:03

    unfortunately or perhaps fortunately more and more of our children are circumventing the mother’s curs (I hope you have kids just like you..) by opting out of parenthood. I hope that my kids opt in but – if they dont – well they dont.

    Reply

  4. Angie
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 06:08:29

    Great entry, Abby! You’re humor really comes off well in your writing and you can mesh it all together with some wisdom too! You rock!

    Reply

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