I Was That Mom

I was that mom recently, in the grocery story. You know the one, where her kids are out of control and you don’t want to make eye contact with anyone. I should have known better; what was i thinking bringing 2 kids to the grocery store to get supplies for supper. Egads, i even bargained with them to get their own stash of candy and snacks for the week.

My kids are not toddlers anymore, so either I should lower my expectation to hope that we can we get errands done after school, or they will never be able to get their beloved snacks. Right now, I’m leaning on the no snacks for a while.

Let me back up and explain myself, as i am usually the one to tell others to not take kids grocery shopping if they can help it. It was April Fool’s Day and as a nice surprise, i thought it would be more fun to play hookie from school and go hang out with my sister and kids for the day. My son was all over that – he hates Mondays and school (what a terrible combo, I’ll give him that) but my daughter was upset to miss school, or at least the jokes she was planning to make on friends at school. After a bit of work getting her onboard, we went to visit my parents. It’s a quick road trip away, and yet it always seems to bring with it some baggage – in this case, my son has outgrown the toys that remain at my parent’s home from my own childhood. He gets bored quickly when there isn’t a book to read. His boredom quickly turns to irritability which can spiral down pretty rapidly. This leads to sibling conflict that is so triggering for me – they get mean and uncooperative, and downright aggressive, to me and each other.

It can be hard to shift after big conflicts, and yet i knew i had to find a solution (aka distraction) quickly. When i suggested to play hide-and-seek, they had no idea of what amazing options were at their disposal. Living in a 100-year old house in Toronto means no closets, so our hiding spaces are limited. Not so in a newer house.

Luckily, we found a way to enjoy the rest of the day. That is, until we drove home and got stuck in traffic on the highway, and it slowed our commute down considerably. My kids were fine. I had some foresight, so I pre-planned and brought their tablets to play with while i drove. Since i don’t drive often on the highway, i feel a bit anxious, so i knew that i needed any help i could get.

It was during this drive that i was able to reflect on what i needed to regroup. I had thought that i could just drive while listening to my favourite playlist, and i would be back to the city. I was still irritable from the kids’ conflict at my parents, slightly stressed to drive on the highway, and i was so thirsty. It’s one thing to do a checklist and see how i’m feeling, but a whole other activity to take care of that need when stuck in a car with your kids, and you are the one that’s driving.

Once we got to the city, i knew i had to get groceries or we wouldn’t have food for dinner or lunches. My kids shared that they were onboard with going, and we made a deal to get things quickly. But once inside, it’s like my son realized that he could have more fun by being silly. Sure, that can help boring things go by more quickly, but at what expense? He put all sorts of things in the grocery cart (dog food, but we don’t have a dog, meat but we’re vegetarian, you get the idea). By the end of our 20 minute excursion, i was so done. I contemplated just ditching our groceries and going home empty-handed, but i knew that would mean more work for me ultimately.

I’ve been noticing that my anger (hyperaroused state in the great Window of Tolerance tool) has been escalating quickly lately, and the logical side of my brain knows the tools to do to help calm down. I am trying to catch it a bit sooner. I knew that the anger (dare i say rage even) was brewing inside when while i was bagging the goods at the cashier. I felt eyes and judgement on me but i kept breathing and reminding myself that I would be home in minutes. I just had to get home.

Our family practices non-violent communication instead of discipline. Sure, that means we are a talking-it-out family, and yet i know that taking their candy (that i did buy) wouldn’t tell them how they acted was inappropriate – it would just tell them that i took something away that they wanted and i had promised them. Of course, they didn’t EAT any of this said candy when we got home, but we sure did talk about expectations, being a better team, and how to honour the agreements we made.

As a therapist, i know what i should be doing to regulate my emotions. As an attachment-based parent, I know that my kids’ behaviour was telling me something, and as a feminist i know that i have a right to be angry when there is more work on my plate just by going to the store with my kids. It’s a lot to balance.

So, i choose self-compassion – while i couldn’t make eye contact with the other customers at the store (a few with kids in tow themselves), i still knew that i was not the only mom in the world who was having a hard time taking her kids to the grocery store. That common humanity helped me. So did the time i took to myself when we did get home.

And so did the candy that we bought, that i snuck in for myself before making dinner that evening.

All the Feelings- Part One: Mom Rage

I never thought I’d be this angry. Or this often.

Who knew that things like
– My daughter not wanting to wear underwear under her dress
– My son refusing to get dressed for school
– My children bickering with each other for the 100,000th time this week
– My daughter threatening to not eat dinner/lunch/breakfast unless she gets candy
– My son tripping over the Lego he didn’t put away
– My children bickering for the 200,000th time this week
– My daughter refusing to pee even thought it’s been hours since the last time
– My son refusing to poo even though his whole body is ready to explode
– My children bickering for the 300,000th time this week

Really, I had no idea that I would be this mad when I became a parent. It’s a bit of a regular thing these days. I am working on it: I have to, I know. If not for the fact that I help others with their feelings, but also so that my neighbours don’t wonder why my daughter is calling me a stupid butt face. Again.

I used to be so happy, relaxed, easy-going… Well, maybe not all three all the time. But each concept is definitely something I remember feeling pre-kids.

I love all the books out there. I especially love the idea of Peaceful Parenting ,Playful Parenting and Simplicity Parenting. See the trend? It sounds so easy! They all sound good and I know they work. I also know that my kids, especially my youngest, are just not developmentally at a place where they know how to regulate their emotions and problem-solve. I also know that Non-violent Communication works and it takes time. But kids’ attention spans aren’t so conducive to long chats about feelings and compromises.

I have learned over the years that my children’s bickering is a trigger for me. While in know i must have bickered with my own sister, i remember more clearly that i wasn’t allowed to be angry with my parents. I also know that the trigger i feel in my body in response to their defiance/stubbornness/automony is that i don’t recall having a right to those feelings when i was a kid.

So, it’s a bit of dance. These feelings of wanting them to not be afraid to speak up for themselves, and to be ok with feeling angry. I know that anger is not a bad feeling, and i’m trying to teach my kids to catch it in them before they explode. And i’m trying to do that for myself too.

I love the charts and posters and reminders i can find on Pinterest that give me pause to explain why Child A is upset. I also love all the suggestions on Pinterest that encourage me to walk away, hold my rock, breathe, and be Zen with my anger. But hello, have you met a quick tempered 5 year old who does. not. allow me to go to my room for a minute? I remind myself that she hasn’t learned to regulate her emotions yet, that her brain literally hasn’t developed that oh so important tool.

I am a bit of a brain geek right now and i love how it is keeping me present with what is going on right before my eyes. The book Whole Brained Child is a great tool for instance. There is a great summary of the book here, that highlights some good tools to use to help your kids with their own feelings.

As to my own journey, one thing i’ve learned is that i can forgive myself for being human, to repair my relationship with my kids after we bicker, and i can model both how to take care of myself and be in control of my anger. I’m not such a fan of the term ‘mom rage’ as it minimizes the anger, and it assumes that only moms can be angry over trivial things like all the times my kids hand me their garbage to put away. I’m not a garbage can. I guess that’s another story. But my point is that i have learned how to catch my anger rise, and to take care of myself. Its’ not so ugly or scary anymore. I just wish my kids could just hurry up and develop this tool as well.

What are some things you do to help you when you’re about to lose your shit? I could use some new tools.

I am NOT Your Servant

bunniesI’m going to share something with you that feels a bit vulnerable. As a therapist and someone who helps others keep their shit together, I want to be authentic that I also make mistakes. And that self-care is something that is right up there in importance to me, but I too need to work on creating a better balance.

My youngest is about to turn 5 in a mere few days’ time. She is my sidekick mini-me. But she is also the one that can push my buttons like no other. I relish the idea of her being fierce (my eldest child’s favourite word to describe something powerful), and I also feel so torn that she is displaying her fierceness at me.

I love the new saying “…nevertheless she persisted “not only for the feminist in me, but also because it describes the relationship I have with my fierce and strong-willed little girl. I can’t wait for her to release this power on others as she grows up, but until then, her dad and I are getting the brunt of it.

This weekend was a busy one for our wee family – I think we had a record 3 birthday parties to take the kids to. I know it was also a special New Moon this weekend, with an eclipse that was told to pull our energy and resources. So…I know all this in theory.

But, come 4:00 on Sunday, my energy was tapped. And my sweet girl’s body was feeling the tug and pull of sugar highs and lows. As a parent, I like to think I have a good insight to why my kids act they way they do. As a therapist, I like to think I know how to take care of my own personal needs too.

As a human, I did not listen to either of these wise hats but rather reacted with pure raw emotion. My daughter’s incessant need for me to get her bag, feed her, make her something, fix something, carry her finally released my own fierceness. Not in a way I wanted but in the way that can come out at times.

So, in my anger I yelled at her “I need a break! I am not your mommy for the rest of the day.’ Knowing right away how awful that sounded, I promptly took that back and yelled instead ‘I’m not your servant for the rest of the day. I will make dinner and eat it with you but that’s it.’ Gotta draw the line somewhere right?

Well, we were both shocked. But she heard me somehow. Somehow she realized I needed some time to myself. So, while I baked cupcakes to feel better, my daughter kept herself busy for over an hour by making herself some new stuffies. She found the paper, staple, stuffing, and made 3 adorable little bunnies all by herself. For an hour I had the time I needed to work on decompressing.

I’m not going to bore you with the details of the other argument I had with my kids later that night, that ended up with no one eating the cupcakes I made. It was ugly but I can look back and see that I needed to let this out – to take care of myself and to show myself and my sweet kids that I too have a limit and my window of tolerance was too small.

I share this to show that no one is perfect, and to also highlight why self-care for us as parents is so important. I love the analogy of the oxygen mask on airplanes – we are indeed supposed to put the mask on us first so that we can better care for others. I share this with you to show just why we need to.

I blame the New Moon Eclipse in Pisces.