We’ve all had those days we wish we could simply erase from our parenting history. I had a particularly notable one a few weeks back. At the end of the day, I felt like my only accomplishment was the mere fact that I didn’t shake my child. I was exhausted and irritable, leading to a short temper and harsh words with my daughter. While I’m not proud of that day, I learned a lot from it.
It was a Friday. I’d been struggling with a cold/allergies that week, and I was barely back on my feet. I was around 34 weeks pregnant and beyond exhausted.
The day actually started out beautifully. My 2 year old and I enjoyed breakfast smoothies as we talked about what we wanted to do that day. Margaret made faces, said “cheers” as we tapped glasses, and thanked me multiple times for making the smoothie for her. Gosh, I love these mornings, I thought to myself.
As the day progressed, my fatigue started to get the better of me. I found myself annoyed as Margaret pushed my buttons. I was short with her when her behavior pulled me from a task I was in the middle of. I couldn’t wait until nap time.
Margaret fought me a bit as I began to change her for her nap. She wanted to take her shorts off herself. On a good day, I would have been patient and allowed her to find out on her own that she was unable to undo the difficult button on her shorts. I would have let her fuss with the button until she asked for and gladly accepted my help. On a good day. Well, that day I wasn’t feeling it. So I unbuttoned her shorts and began to remove them.
She threw a FIT. Now, on a good day, I would have remembered that I needed to let her do this herself. I would have calmly told her that she needed to ask nicely if she could undo the button and remove her shorts herself. On a good day. Instead, I continue to fight her. I pried the shorts from her death grip as she screamed and flailed.
I, in essence, was acting like a 2 year old. I exercised no sense of reason or control over my emotions. I let frustration get the better of me and got into an ugly power struggle with my daughter. The problem was, I was actually capable of exercising self control. Margaret was not. Because she’s 2. So there we were, a 27 year old and a 2 year old, head to head. The battle of the pants.
Once I had Margaret down to her diaper, I snapped back to reality. I looked into her confused, frustrated, angry eyes. I grabbed her flailing arms and wrapped them around my neck. I walked with her over to the rocker and sat down. I held her tight as she continued to scream. I knew we both needed a break. I knew I needed to show her love.
Once Margaret calmed down, I told her I was sorry for losing my temper. I told her I loved her. She snuggled into my arms and sucked her thumb. Then, with the light returning to her eyes, she sweetly informed me, “I poo-pooed!” Alright then, moving on.
I hoped a nap would give me some stamina for the remainder of the day. Sadly, it did not. About an hour before my husband was due to be home, I had had it. I threw in the towel and lay down on the couch. I figured as long as Margaret wasn’t getting into anything dangerous, I’d let her run around as she pleased. I didn’t care how big of a mess she had already made or was going to make. I was spent.
Margaret then decided she wanted to crawl all over me, poking and prodding me, often painfully so. She may have landed forcefully on my head a few times. I was at the end of my rope, and I began to cry. Margaret noticed the tears streaming down my face. She asked, “What’s wrong, Mama? You okay, Mama?” I told her I was tired and sad and asked her to get me a paper towel (she couldn’t reach the tissues). For the next ten minutes, Margaret brought me small pieces of paper towel she had ripped off the roll. She wiped my tears and my nose. I didn’t care that she had my snot all over her hands. I’d get up and wash her hands eventually…
Those were 10 very precious minutes to me. Not only did my crying distract her from her shenanigans, but also I got to feel love and affection from my daughter that I certainly didn’t feel I deserved that day.
Looking back, I’m thankful for that day.
I’m thankful that I learned the importance of a Mama time out.
I’m thankful that I was reminded that my daughter will still love me, even when I have my ugly moments.
I’m thankful I was reminded that I need to give myself and my daughter grace on days like those. Lots and lots of grace.
It’s amazing how your worst days can provide the best insights. Those moments you cringe to recall actually become building blocks for better parenting.
What are some things that you have learned from challenging days with your children? Share in the comments section below.