This time last week, the situation between Trump and Kim Jong Un, had nothing on the tensions that were being reached in my head, between #SHJM and I at times. As with most elements of parenting, it was all in my head, and he was oblivious. On the outside, I was on the my ever-committed path of peace, on a daily mission to defuse, assist and calm, but on the inside, things felt off keel. Navigating the emotions of a three-nager is hard. And being our first child, #MJM and I are in uncharted territory.
I spend 9 hours a day in the logical working world, where disagreements are resolved with discussion and compromise, and so I struggle when I walk in the door to the current emotional, and testing terrain that is our family home. Throw sleep deprivation into the mix, with #ARWM waking 3 times a night and up for the day at 5am, and I feel I am forever walking on ice, that I hear constantly cracking beneath my feet.
The thing with children’s irrational behaviour, is that it’s actually very logical. There is plenty of research into why our children ‘act out’, and it points to it stemming from the combination of new emotions they don’t know how to handle, and a reaction to how we parents behave.
The days #MJM and I discuss an adult topic at dinner, and don’t engage #SHJM in the conversation, are the days he acts out at the table. The days I sit next to #SHJM on the sofa and check Instagram on my phone, are the days he wants to hold the ipad on his lap, and not observe the “one arm distance” rule. Last Tuesday night, I was on a conference call at 7pm, a time I normally avoid but couldn’t, and as a result I had to tell #SHJM I couldn’t play with him. When the call finished he had a massive tantrum, refused to let me put him to bed and told me repeatedly he didn’t like me. It’s pretty obvious why. That doesn’t make the situation any easier though and doesn’t make me any less frustrated.
In the times when things are escalating, I ask myself 3 simple questions.
- Am I being reasonable?
- Is my expectation / the situation age appropriate?
- Does it really matter?
These questions help me restore calm and restore logic (in me, not #SHJM). I have found with almost all parenting challenges, it is normally my issue and not the kids. I once read something that said ‘If you feel you have won, you have made your child lose’. That really bothered me. The thought of making my child the loser to my own advantage was hard to swallow. I at least want them to have a fair go at the race! I realise it’s my job to help them win too. Then we both win.
Let’s not think for a minute that everything above means I live in a perfect parenting world where we calmly resolve our challenges. The reason I started typing these words last Wednesday morning was a pep talk to myself, and a therapeutic debrief after three and a half hours of chaos, before I had even started my working day, and all this on a morning I was striving for quality time and connection.
Let me set the scene… #ARWM woke up at 5 and went back for a nap at 7am. #SHJM woke up at 6.55am, sensing his brother was about to tag out from the early shift, and not wanting Mummy or Daddy to be without an awake child, he nobly stepped up to the challenge to tag in. #MJM headed off to work and whilst I prepared #SHJM’s breakfast he played with bubbles on the balcony (aka poured a litre of bubble mix all over the floor creating an ice rink). We sat on the balcony to eat our scrambled eggs on toast together, while he ripped page after page of paper from a note book. Any attempt to remove the note book from him failed and resulted in screaming. (Small mercies though, he ate the eggs on toast). When I got him changed for school I discovered he had a dirty nappy, and while I asked him to stand still while I got a wet wipe, he ran off in excitement initiating a game of chase. The result was a dirty protest on the spare room bed and him somehow ending up giving himself a shower. This all happened in approximately 3.5 seconds, while I turned around to get a wet wipe. My first reaction was to tell him how frustrated and cross he had made me by not listening. Obviously, this went over his head, as he was now engrossed in lathering up with a weeks’ worth of shower gel. Then as I started to clear up the path of destruction I queued up my 3 questions. Am I being unreasonable to expect anything different? Yes. Is what happened normal for his age? Yes. Does it really matter? No. I still fancied a glass of wine at 8.20am when I dropped him at school, but instead opted for a coffee, listening to a podcast for 10 minutes and made a mental note reminder, that the quality time we had had that morning would serve more towards peaceful negotiations than me losing my temper would.
In the last 5 days #MJM and I have made a conscious effort to have more quality time with the boys and be present. Yes, we have still had tantrums and yes we are all still navigating some pretty volatile emotions from #SHJM, but actually we’re all reconnected and when the tantrums come, we at least try and meet them with calm empathy (and a GnT), rather than frustration (…and two GnT’s!).
Mummy Milne xxx