Mommy Needs a Timeout
By: Fiona Tapp | Date: September 13 2016
When I was pregnant, I napped and meditated and sang softly to my belly, and tried to create an environment of tranquility and peace for my unborn baby, and then he came out and was a complete raving maniac.
In fact, almost an exact copy of both mine and my husband’s personalities. We are quintessential drama queens- quick to anger, quick to laugh, we love to rant, we slam doors and then we forgive and forget.
I am not sure why I thought the addition of our own little mini me, would produce a different sort of personality, I am not sure why I thought he would emerge having been composed with our DNA and yet behave like a Zen Buddhist monk, but I did.
Although I should have predicted it, his anger still shocks me in its raw rage, its teeth clenching, feet stomping, hair tugging ferocity. It’s like a mirror being held up to my face and sometimes it scares me. When he was tiny, I could mostly deal with his ire calmly — he was, after all, so small and helpless and needed me to calm him down. But now that he is becoming a little person, a child, I find it harder to control my anger when faced with his. Mommy needs a timeout.
Parenting is the only family relationship where you often feel as though you aren’t living up to your part of the bargain- I’ve never felt like that as a sister, or a daughter, or even as a wife, but as a mother, I sometimes feel as though I don’t quite make the grade.
A childless friend recently asked me what it’s like to have a child and I said my short initiation had represented the most divine sublime moments of my life and also encompassed the desperate aching lowest points I had ever experienced. All in the same short span of time. Once he is grown, what sort of final grade will I give myself for Mothering, or more worryingly, what grade will he give me?
Lately, I have been trying to understand my little one more, when he is feeling out of control and trying, trying so very hard, not to lose my cool as well, which goes against everything in my nature. I even bought and downloaded a meditation app, which I completed 1 min 12 seconds of, before falling sound asleep.
I try to do these 4 things when he is just about ready to pitch a fit:
- I acknowledge his feelings and ask him to name them if he can- I’ll often counter if he looks bemused, with what I think he is experiencing i.e. “are you angry?” “are you sad?”
- I remind him that I love him, even if he is mad, even if he hurts me or screams (though those behaviors are not acceptable)
- I tell him how I feel- I want him to begin to understand that his behavior affects others.
- I tell him I am sorry, because I have usually done something wrong too, and I make him apologize.
We’re still figuring this out, and we are going to make mistakes along the way. I want to be better, I want to do better. And part of that is admitting to him when I have made a doozy.
When I was growing up, in my family, apologies were very common. My Mom and I, would often fall out but we always hugged and made up and we both always apologized. The power of an apology is that you feel that there is a way out of the argument, of the horrid stale feeling you have in your tummy. That there is a way to mend it and start all over again. People who don’t apologize, leave a little bit of the argument floating around, ready to snowball into something catastrophic, those are the people who make mountains out of molehills.
However angry my boy is, however white his knuckles become from being clenched so tightly in fury, I want him to know that there is always a way back, a way to release those feelings and fall into my embrace. I want him to know that however angry I am, my face will always soften, eventually, my shoulders will drop and I will be ready to chase him around or sing another song or have a tickle fight.
I find I am much better at controlling my temper when there is an audience, so maybe we just need to get out more, or I could give the meditation another crack…. If I can just stay awake long enough.
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