Although the unpredictable and intense postpartum mood swings have settled down for me, with lack of sleep and…well, being human…I really struggle with irritability as a mom. When the kiddos are up, Mom has to be awake and functioning, too. Even when my head feels like a block of concrete that wants to stay cemented to my pillow. The Murphy’s Law of motherhood–if it can go wrong, it probably will, at the worst time–seems to catch me by surprise a lot. It’s difficult to stay calm and in control. Actually, that’s part of my problem: trying to stay in control. I just can’t make everything go exactly according to plan. As moms we often envision the ideal course of events and then beat ourselves up when things don’t go that way, whether or not we really could have done anything “better.” We can’t control others, not even our kids. (We can only do our best to guide them). We can’t control our circumstances, either. Yet we say to ourselves, If only I’d done such-and-such-differently, it would have gone well. Why couldn’t I have done it better? If we’re honest with ourselves, I think we mean “perfectly,” not just better. There’s definitely the time to analyze what worked and didn’t, and learn from life. But there’s also the time for saying, I may not have done everything right but I did SOMETHING right; I made some progress! Because perfection isn’t something humans can attain, but progress is. My husband has been the less-emotional voice of reason encouraging me in this learning process. The other day he even said something that seemed crazy to my type-A, achievement-oriented mind, when I was feeling frustrated with the fact that it had been several days and there was still an unfolded pile of laundry (even though each day I sat down and started folding it! Somebody needed a diaper change; somebody else needed discipline; people needed food; we needed to leave for an appointment, etc. etc.) He said, “Maybe folded laundry should be a weekly goal instead of trying to get it done all at once then feeling bad when it’s not done in a day…or two…or…” Ok, ok, I get your point. As an aside, just now I started to feel guilty that I was typing during a quiet moment as the baby naps because I wasn’t folding the laundry but writing instead. I’m just a poor steward of my time, I told myself. That’s why you never get stuff done around the house. But that’s not the true. A creative outlet is my way of staying (more) sane and energized. It’s my free therapy. So I’m saving money! haha 😉 I firmly believe that while sometimes we need to be critical of the real flaws in our lives and make changes, other times we’re being discouraged by lies about ourselves. Truth gives us a way to be free from hindrances rather than shaming and condemning us. So today, I started to think how I was really not handling our morning well. Part of that is true. I could feel myself getting angry and wanting to act in anger. But otherwise, I actually did some things right. Here’s how it played out: Breakfast over, I moved us into the playroom, coffee in hand, and sat on my favorite rocker. A few glides forward and back, and I heard a creak-crack. UGH! This stupid rocker! We shouldn’t have paid so much for it–even if we used gift cards to pay for it! I’m the one that fought to get this particular one because it reclined, too. Crummy design! I JUST fixed the other side a few weeks ago! Can’t anything be simple?! So I got out the glue and the clamps, which I’d never put away from last time fixing the rocker, and got to work. Of course it was super interesting to littles and they both came trotting over, getting in my way. Sissy was climbing over me, trying to play in the glue drops, which I was fuming about already. Stupid of me not to put a drop cloth down…again. Didn’t learn from last time, did I?! I even remember telling myself this is an evening or nap time project, when the kids aren’t around. Too late now. Glue’s everywhere. My voice raised a bit, I barked out, “Nobody touch the rocker! You could get hurt by the clamps or break it worse!” Babies don’t really listen to reason, so it was silly to expect it from Sissy. She kept climbing over me. Then big bro could no longer resist, and starting inching closer to the rocker on its side. It kind of looked climb-able. “Do you want time-out?! Do NOT. touch. the rocker.” Then he came over to me and started goofing off with Sissy. I now had TWO little people climbing over me. Frustrated with the dripping glue, the cheap quality of the rocker (I mean, card-board-like particle-board pegs holding the slats of the glider together, not even real wood. We paid enough; we should have gotten REAL wood pegs. Erg!!!), and then, lack of personal space. GAH! I felt the blood boiling. Last time had gone the same way. And I blew up at them, I’m sorry to say. I apologized, but that doesn’t erase their hurt feelings at the time. This time, I really felt like blowing up, too. But I knew that would be wrong. Let your gentleness be evident to all, I recited. God, I don’t want to be gentle. They’re SO FRUSTRATING right now. I took a deep breath and said, “Honey, mommy’s upset right now because the rocker’s broken and it’s hard to fix. Please don’t touch me–or the rocker–right now. I need to calm down. I am going to fix this, and then we can play.” I identified the real issue–anger about the rocker–and let my son know how he could help, by giving me space. He gave me some advice, too, “Yes. Talm down, Mommy. No upset!” Hahaa. I know, kid. I know. It’s just a chair. It doesn’t really matter in the long run. What does matter is that I didn’t blow up at my kids even though I felt like it. I’m learning how to better be in control of my actions, the one thing I can control in life, when nerves are raw. Progress.
Oh, Pinterest. How you distract us. We, especially us moms, have better things to do than be online coming up with more stuff we “need” to do or read. 😉 But how fun you can be. And I wonder how greatly you may contribute to my ADD.
Lately I’ve been finding “inspiring” pins about being a stay-at-home-mom or parenting in general and have been reading them in my spare time (hah…hah…*sigh.* Feel free to read that as “time I should have spent sleeping”). One particular pin led me to see an affiliate link that was about parenting education which enumerated the belief system of those who would fit well with the program. The primary tenet said something to the effect of, “This system will work well for you if you believe children are inherently good.” Then there was a paragraph written about how wonderful children are and that they simply require nurturing guidance to go on their own natural path to a positive future. I agree kids are wonderful with great potential. But I laughed out loud reading the words “children are inherently good.” All I could think was, “Does this person actually have a kid?”
Ok, maybe I was thinking, “This person should spend a day with my kid.” Let me tell you about my kid. I adore him and can’t imagine not being his mommy. In the 1.5 years he’s been the star of our show (actually, he started monopolizing our attention even before he was born, making his presence known since taking over my body for 9 months…technically more if you count breastfeeding, etc…) we have not gone more than a few minutes without thinking of him even if we were out on a date (which is rare). There are thousands of pictures and countless videos we’ve taken of him. I have a journal describing his milestones, funny and memorable moments, new words he says, and on and on. I told my husband before we got married that if we were to have kids, I would never work outside the home because I wanted to stay at home with them, and I do not regret that decision one bit no matter how worn out I feel sometimes. I think I would cry all day long if I had to leave my son every workday for even a few hours! I’m pretty sure friends and family get sick of hearing about the things I think are cute that he did today and think I am incapable of conversing about anything besides him anymore.
He’s just so great! He is an affectionate, cuddly sweetheart who loves to give his little buddies hugs. He is empathetic and recently went up to his daddy when my hubby injured his wrist crawling around the floor chasing after the kiddo and Lil Bambino, with a very concerned look on his face, said “Owie?” and tried to fix it. He loves to laugh and makes so many people smile and comment on what a well-behaved toddler he is while we’re out shopping.
But as much as we adore our little one, we KNOW he is not inherently good. He wants HIS way, or ain’t nobody gonna be having a good day!! He almost knocked one of my teeth out the other day, bashing a Corelle mug in my face while throwing a tantrum when I wouldn’t give him a refill of the “hot” drink he wanted since it was sugary and just a treat. Impulse control in kids this age is really, really underdeveloped. You see their feelings translate into actions right away. Selfish actions. Ugly actions. I told my son yesterday that he could not hit or bite people in anger and he turned around and proceeded to scrape the wall with an open mouth so his teeth left a mark in the wallpaper. (We rent. Hooray. Hope it’s not noticeable!) He also tends to throw things when he’s upset. He becomes so angry at times that he balls his hands up in fists of rage and shakes, turning red and wailing at the tops of his lungs, usually because we have taken away something that might harm him. We are mean, mean parents not to let him play with sharp objects! We should let him eat the yummy diaper cream! We should let him color anywhere he wants to even if it’s on the walls of property that we do not own! Often I am in tears at the end of the day because he was throwing fit after fit when all I wanted to do was feed him something healthy, change his dirty diapers, and love on him.
Is he wonderful? I think so. But I do not think he, nor any child, is inherently good. And I know myself, that I am not inherently good, and that when I was a child–and a pretty nice kid, too!–I was not innately altruistic. No, I wanted the biggest cookie with the most chocolate chips, and despised my brother for swiping it first! I even fibbed a time or two and as much as I loved animals, chased my cat with a vacuum once. I got spanked a few times for good reason (and no, it didn’t squelch my personality or scar me for life. I knew my parents loved me and disciplined me for my best interest.)
I suppose the whole idea of innate goodness goes back to even before Aristotle, but he’s one of the earliest who wrote about the concept of the mind being a tabula rasa, or blank/clean slate. Newborn Bambino Mio, I can tell you, was not a blank slate. We did not impress upon him how to think or behave as an infant. He still has the same cry of anger as he came with. It looks like this:
Except now he has more teeth than that, and they hurt when they go into my leg or arm. He did not get aggressive behaviors from daycare because he doesn’t go to daycare, nor from older siblings because he’s an only child for a few more months. I never taught him to bite when frustrated, to steal his friend’s toy, to hide while doing something he knows Mommy wouldn’t like, or to sneak as fast as he can onto the table now that he can climb to get Mommy’s cell-phone or whatnot he wants and she wouldn’t give him earlier. That, my friends, is human nature. Pre-existing selfishness. What the Bible calls a sin nature. And the beauty of it is that in my sinful, selfish little boy’s eyes, I see a reflection of my own tendencies and shortcomings, my own stubbornness and impatience, and I am amazed at how my Heavenly Father never stops loving me no matter how many tantrums I throw. But I get it. Because I will never stop loving my son. He needs my love and unconditional acceptance, just like I need God’s to feel whole. I’m so thankful for being able to experience the intensity of parental love for my child, and understanding more deeply the love of God for us through that.