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And Then She Blows a Gasket…

Look out, here it comes!

Where is your KINDNESS?!

“Hand over ANYTHING THAT HAS A SCREEN!” I hollered at my kids the other night while blowing a gasket. They are used to me getting mad, but not this mad. They were petrified. I’m pretty sure the neighbors three houses down were also petrified.

I was mad that they are always fighting. Every time they walk past each other, they fight about it. Every time someone has to use the bathroom, they fight about it. Every time someone has to set the table, they fight about it. I had had enough. So I ranted for a while, yelling things like, “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BE NICE TO EACH OTHER, HUH? WHY CAN’T YOU TREAT EACH OTHER WITH RESPECT, HUH? WHERE DID YOUR KINDNESS GO?

My two youngest girls started crying as I screamed at them to find their kindness.

And when the irony of this finally struck me, I wanted to curl up in a corner and disappear. I SUCK AT PARENTING, the voice in my head scolded me. I AM NOT EQUIPPED FOR THIS. I MAKE EVERYTHING WORSE.

I paced up and down the hall for a while trying to cool down, collect my thoughts, and think of something a good parent would do. I wanted to right my wrong and comfort my kids but I was still mad and clinging to my principle.

“Everyone grab a piece of paper,” I said calmly, walking back into the dining room.

Wow, they did that quickly, I thought as they scurried back to the table. I AM A CRAPPY MOM FOR SCARING THEM INTO GOOD BEHAVIOR, the voice reminded me.

I got myself a piece of paper, too. The four of us sat down with our pencils. “Now I want you to write ideas for how we can solve this problem.” I said. “How can we treat each other with more kindness? What can each of us do to make this family better and fight less?” They started writing furiously. I sat there, pencil in hand, looking at them.

Oldest Daughter kept her head down, wisely sensing at this juncture that an eye roll would not work in her favor. Middle Daughter’s tears stopped the instant she understood that her assignment was to write new rules, because for our well-meaning little Officer Salatka, the only thing better than creating rules is enforcing them. But Youngest Child, she continued sobbing.

I pulled my chair next to her. “Maybe you can help me with my list now,” I said as her writing slowed. “How can I do a better job? Do you have any suggestions?”

“Don’t yell,” she said, sniveling. Her legs were pulled up to her chest and she spoke softly, timidly.

“Okay, that’s a good one for me to work on. Number one, I will try not to yell.”

“Don’t be mean,” she whispered.

“Yes, okay,” I sighed and wrote it down. “What else?” I asked.

“Buy me more toys,” she whimpered.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that one.”

“I need more toys. You never buy me toys,” she said a little louder.

“Oh. But what about all the toys in your room? And in the cupboards? And in the closet? And in the garage?”

“No, I don’t like those toys anymore. I need new toys,” she said morosely, eyes blinking, still wet.

Right then, my heart filled with pride. This tiny person was trying to work me, to pole vault off my guilt onto a pad of new merchandise. I had to respect it. This little girl may need loads of therapy in her adulthood for all the havoc I knowingly wreak and probably even more for the havoc I unknowingly wreak, but her determined Youngest Child Spirit is strong. She can take a situation that is composed of manure and built on a foundation of fatigue and unrealistic expectations and still attempt to manipulate it to her advantage. That’s my little faker, I thought.

“I think we’re pretty good on toys, but let’s take a closer look at what you have tomorrow.” I said, giving her a squeeze.  She hugged me back and ran into her room.

So goes another night in the life.

Do you have any suggestions for how not to blow a gasket? Because I’d like to keep my promise. If yes, please hit the comments. Muchas gracias.

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14 Responses to “ And Then She Blows a Gasket… ”

  1. Love Z. says:

    You seem to have taken a page from the Zubiller handbook. We have had many similar episodes, and after each one I want to chop my own head off for exhibiting the very behavior I am trying to curb.

    I’ve been thinking lately about the demands I put on my kids, but don’t uphold myself. I ask my kids to do so much — change their behaviors, learn manners, eat right, be better people. I punish them, yell, and withhold things when they don’t get it right. If my daughter doesn’t eat her dinner, she doesn’t get dessert. If my son isn’t nice to his sister, he doesn’t get to play on the ipad. If their rooms aren’t clean before bed, they don’t get to watch an episode of Uncle Grandpa.

    All of that is fair and (hopefully… maybe…) it is teaching them to be responsible adults.

    But I am so far from responsible myself. If I don’t eat all my dinner, I still help myself to dessert. If I am not nice to my kids (see first paragraph above), I will still play on my ipad. And if my desk is covered in crap three feet thick, I am still allowed to watch tv at night.

    I try to be a good role model to my kids — always saying please and thank you; eating good food; being nice to neighbors. But what I’m not good at is changing my behaviors or sticking to the rules. It’s a double standard.

    I don’t think this answers your question.

    • The double standard is tricky because some stuff you shouldn’t do as a kid you can do in moderation when you are an adult. I think it’s about helping them create healthy habits. When they are older, they can choose what to do knowing that most of the time they should make the healthy choice. But yes, if I am telling my kids to eat healthy while they watch me pound an XL Snickers, or to not rot their brain with too much screen time while I binge watch Homeland and The Affair, then I worry that they will do what I do and not as I say. I think it comes back to realistic expectations, for them and for ourselves, too.

  2. Ed Franqui says:

    I look forward to reading what others write, because I’m in the boat every day I feel like. I don’t respond well to the push back, will get mad, but I feel more so than the situation called for. Then I feel guilty, and the thoughts of being a horrible parent return. I take comfort in reading this and knowing that a parent I respect A LOT goes through the same thing. Thanks for sharing, sorry for giving you no answers on how to keep your promise. 😉

  3. Terry Stewart says:

    Lindsey, I had all your frustration & tears reading this! Not sure if I liked to more since I know your girls, but it is certainly universal. I relate to everyone of them! And you !!! You are a great Mother, Mother!

  4. Heidi Berry says:

    don’t be so hard on yourselves parents! it’s a tough job and look how sweet you are to bring it back to your own responsibility. pat yourselves on the back and do something for yourself.

    my mom used to hide her frozen hershey bar/junior mints until her 4 littles were snug in bed (or so she thought)…I loved looking into this secret life….quietly sneaking downstairs to catch a peak of my own mother watching t.v. and eating her end of day prize…….it has always been one of my favorite “mom” moments.

    Is anyone still trying the meditation? :)) how many days did you say Linds?

    XX!

  5. Danielle Beck-Stack says:

    I do a portable meditation called mantram repetition (www.easwaran.org). You pick a word or phrase that resonates with you and repeat it when you do not need it so it comes to you when you do. Being a mom and soccer coach requires a lot of patience and my natural tendency is to run hot. It calms me down so I can choose to say something snarky or not. Again, natural tendency for sarcasm. We still have our struggles and battles but it works for me. It gives you a choice – you can choose to regulate your emotions or choose not to regulate… Sometimes with spouses, you pick not to regulate but with kids, it helps!

  6. Tiffany says:

    Don’t be too hard on yourself. I think you’ve done a great job raising your girls. We, as adults, have our moments just like the kids do. I’d like to see this as a reminder for them that “Hey, kiddo, your mom isn’t perfect either (although they might thought we are superheroes who are capable of doing everything). Let’s work something out, girls. Together, even better!!

  7. Tiffany says:

    On the other hand, I like how you REMIND them to be kind. :)

 

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