October 10, 2018

I Had a Bad Day

I was a bad mom yesterday.

I didn’t give them enough attention, love or kindness. I was distracted, stressed out over money and clutter, wallowing in my own feelings of inadequacy in this world. There was too much TV time for them and too much phone time for me, while I desperately tried to escape the anxiety in my head.

Worse, when I had opportunities to show kindness, to encourage, to stave off their roller coasters of emotions, I failed miserably. I lost my cool over messes they made while I was dealing with my crap and I fueled their negative behavior with my negative reactions. I went against everything I know and rued the fact that I spent the day chipping away at the foundation of respect and kindness that I worked so hard to build.

Why did I feel this way? Because, at bedtime, my 4-year-old whispered to her father, “Today was supposed to be the best day ever but angry Mommy came out and angry Daddy came out and now I'm sad,” as she burst into tears.

Ugh. He didn't even want to tell me she said it, knowing it would make me cry. I did cry, but then… I owned it. She was right. On this day, I was not a good mom; not by my own standards at least. Angry mom did come out, more than once, and often for no reason other than I was incapable of controlling her. It was like an out of body experience - my heart saying, No, Stop, Don't and my brain saying, GET THIS SHIT DONE.

I made poor choices, the worst of which was to stew in my anger over something out of my control and allow my emotions to dictate how our day went, and I hurt my kids as a result. The irony is not lost on me.

How often do I rage inside when their emotions get in the way of our plans? Worse, how often do I forget to keep it all inside, gritting my teeth or whispering a threat out of their range or absentmindedly patting their backs and mumbling "I hear you...it's hard..." all while I want to beg them to please just. get. over. it?

It's impossible to live on top of another person and avoid being affected by their difficult days. And what good would I be to them if I did pretend as such? I know that I can't fake it well. If I'm upset, it's better for me to get it out - write, clean, scream, go for a drive, anything other than pretend all is well. I made the choice not to do any of that. Instead, I tried to do too much all at once, which led to frustration and more anger.

I get that we're supposed to shield our kids from our adult problems, but I don't feel guilty or ashamed for the fact that my four-year-olds were affected by my poor choices yesterday. I had a bad day, I'm human, it happens. I could have let it impact my sleep last night, worrying over how this will scar them for life. I could stress over how I broke them and destroyed years of work. I could have, and, long ago, I would have. It's so easy to give in, to allow the mistakes to shine, to forget about all the good.

But none of it would make a shred of difference. There is only one thing to do: move on. OK, two things: focus on the good.

There were tears today, but there was also laughter, and play, and love. Maybe not enough, but it has to be doesn't it? Some days are just like that. There's a life lesson for them in here somewhere, and while it might not the best way for them to learn it, if I'm going to preach authenticity and honesty, I need to practice them as well.

So I make a choice: be better. Today is a fresh canvas on which I get the chance to paint whatever experience I want my children to have. I choose to make the most of our situation, to let go of the worry, even if just for a little while, to laugh and hug and play. I choose to feel my frustration, then leave it for later, when little hearts are not likely to become collateral damage. I choose to model grace and forgiveness and most of all, kindness, to them and to myself because if they don't see it, how can I ever hope they will learn it?

It's so cliche, but today is a new day and with it will come ample opportunities to make better choices. I will slip, I will mess up, but I will also remember my daughter's words from last night. I won't allow them to saddle me with guilt and sadness, instead, they will fuel my fire to be better, to listen more, to control my emotions and responses.

It's so easy to believe the lies our hearts tell us - that one bad day can undo a thousand good ones, that the scars left by angry words can overtake a lifetime of love and support, that we have broken them. That alone could be enough to make me abandon all hope of ever being better, for the damage is done. But my heart, thankfully through lessons of my own girlhood, knows better. I hold fast to the fact that children are resilient and want to forgive, to feel loved and supported, to give love and support.

I can't give up now, I can't let the guilt swallow me up and resign myself to the idea that a few hard days make for a bad childhood. I vow to start fresh, to smile and make eye contact, to have meaningful interactions and thoughtful responses.

I could go out of my way to make today special or magical, to give in to the guilt and try to make up for what was lost yesterday, but where's the authenticity in that? What they need more of is consistency. They need to know that some days are hard and other days are not but in the end their mom is there with love and guidance, not just chocolate kisses and tv shows because she feels bad all the time. It may not be the best day ever, but it will be better than yesterday.

At the beginning of the day, that is all I can do. Be the change and all that. 


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