I walked out and shut the bedroom door behind me, hoping to contain the noise of the crying girls. Away from my ears. Away from my heart.
But it didn’t work. My guilt found me, as I knew it would, and followed me like a dense, suffocating fog for the rest of the week. It was an ugly evening that culminated in kids who refused to be placated and who each wanted me for themselves. The protests of overtired girls who wanted more, more, more haunted me, except that evening, I had nothing left to give. Before a terrible situation turned even worse, I chose to walk away.
Naturally, I felt like the worst parent on earth. That guilt was toxic. I knew I couldn’t let it hang over me without being utterly consumed by it – I had to do something.
That’s when I remembered Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project”, in which she says we sometimes have to act the way we want to feel, hoping that our positive actions would influence our own feelings. I decided to use that theory on my parenting that weekend to get me out of my funk.
I decided to become Awesome Mom, even if I didn’t feel that way. Or rather, especially so.
With Little Miss being home every Friday and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, we had a four-day weekend ahead of us. That meant a lot of time together as a family, which also meant the perfect opportunity for me to practice my Awesome Momness.
When my four-year-old started to protest, instead of being annoyed, I thought to myself, what would Awesome Mom do? Rather than react to what I would normally have thought as irrational behavior, sometimes I worked on distracting and diffusing. Other times, I would just take a deep breath and remind myself to act in contrary to my usual self.
It was easier with Thumper, who’s all “otay mommy” this and “otay daddy” that in response to our requests, and who disarms us with words she cobbles together to form clumsy sentences, like “wash my hands...too...peas....mommy!” At 19 months, she’s at the Golden Age, where her disobedience is still considered cute, and her chubby cheeks, coupled with her innocence, work as get-out-of-jail-free cards.
Little Miss, on the other hand, knows the dangerous combination of buttons that can blow my already-short fuse. My impatience is my downfall, and unfortunately, that’s a serious shortcoming for a parent with an obstinate, defiant four-year-old.
Most of our clashes at home stem from my inability to maintain control of my emotions with Little Miss, and it pains me to think that she would feel any less loved because my relationship with Thumper is often, in contrast, so full of easy laughter and affection. I love Little Miss fiercely and wholeheartedly, of course, but sometimes, when we’re in the midst of World War III, it’s hard for anyone to see that, let alone one who’s at the receiving end of my frustrations.
That’s also the other motivation around my Awesome Mom weekend. I wanted to bring the Awesome Kid out of Little Miss, because I know she is there. We just needed to tune in to the same frequency - one that would bring out the best in the both of us.
Going into the weekend, I didn’t have much of a plan. I only knew that I wanted us all to enjoy the time we shared, so I just turned to My Guy and simply said, “Hey, let’s make this a great weekend okay?”
He agreed, knowing how I’d been feeling last week. We both put in the effort to be extra patient, extra kind, extra understanding, and because of that, we had an extra-ordinary weekend!
Acting like an Awesome Mom made me feel that way, which, positively influenced how I behaved when dealing with a sticky situation. Conversely, reacting well to and therefore avoiding a potential outburst also made me feel like an Awesome Mom! See? “Act the way I want to feel.”
Also, the positive energy must have been infectious, because not only did Little Miss make it easier on me to be Awesome Mom, she was totally the Awesome Kid herself! It was incredible that I went into this trying to erase the guilt only to end up with one of the best weekends we’ve had in awhile. (Ms. Rubin! Thank you!)
We had play dates, a brunch with friends, a birthday party, a trip to the Children’s Museum, a library jaunt, errands, and lazy mornings at home stuffed into our four-day weekend. Each day was better than the other, and it was unbelievable how my determination to become that parent I’ve always wanted to be came simply from believing that I was that parent.
Since having Little Miss a little over four years ago, I’ve been euphoric with the highs and debilitated by the lows of parenting. I tell myself that everyday is a brand new day, and I go into each day with a hope that it’s going to be a good one. Sometimes I falter. Sometimes I fail completely. And miserably.
I haven’t perfected this parenting gig yet, which sadly, at this moment, is the only gig I have, so you’d think I’d be a pro by now. But as this lovely Jill Churchill quote goes, “there’s no way to be a perfect mother but a million ways to be a good one.”
I continue to seek wisdom in books, find solace from fellow parents, Google confounding issues, and take deep, deep breaths. Still, it’s not an exact science - I do well on some days and not so much on others. Although it’s been a wonderful weekend, I just know I can’t be Awesome Mom every day.
But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep trying.
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What do you do or say to yourself when you’ve had a not-so-awesome day with the kids? How do you keep going? Where do you go for parenting guidance and inspiration?
This is a Wordful Wednesday post.