I just lost it on my sweet little 4-year-old boy, Harry. He was eating his breakfast very slowly. I had reminded him several times that it was almost time to get dressed to which he responded several times “I’M STILL EATING MY BREAKFAST!” After the 3rd or 4th time, I lost it. I yelled. He cried then I cried.
As I got him dressed and hustled him out the door I told him I was sorry for yelling. We got down the hill to the bus stop just as the bus was pulling up. I hugged him. He got on and looked back at me with a very sad face. I waved and blew kissed to him as the bus drove away, but he still looked sad and a little confused. I’m heartbroken and so ashamed of my behavior.
I’m the grown-up, the protector, the helper...but I’m also human.
I’m not excusing my behavior. I wish this morning had gone much differently, but it doesn’t help to revel in guilt. Doing so would just perpetuate the shame, increase the stress and make it more likely that I’ll lose it again. Instead, I want to investigate how my behavior happened.
I was awakened at 5:30am by a toddler in a cranky mood. He spent the morning “airing his grievances.” He didn't want to be put down, but he didn’t want to sit on my lap. He wanted to eat, but he didn’t want to be in the highchair or eat anything I gave him. Needless to say, I was already on edge. So it’s no wonder I got so upset when big brother wouldn’t get dressed.
I don’t think my children are unusually defiant and I don’t think I’m unusually sensitive. I think it’s the situation that’s flawed.
Parenting happens in pairs or alone when what we really need is a community. Not just a community of people who live near us, but a community of people working together to help each other. Sounds like an impossible utopia, doesn’t it?
Humans are communal beings. We are hard wired to live and thrive together and yet so many parents are thrown to the wolves. We do it all, or most of it, on our own.
No wonder so many of us feel so often at our wits end and then so ashamed for not being better.
We need real support, real respect, real camaraderie...not judgment and competition or worse isolation.
Years ago, I worked on an inpatient psychiatric unit. It was a hard job. The only way I was able to do my job effectively was because I had a team to support me. If I was having a hard day I knew there was always someone there for me. How many parents can say the same thing?
It’s not surprising so many of us end up yelling at our kids at times. I don’t pretend to have the all the answers to this problem, but what I do know is that all parents could use more support. All of us need safe place to talk about our parenting mishaps without judgment. All parents need someone to vent to, someone who can remind them that parenting is a hard job. All parents need support.
When young Harry got off the bus at the end of the day, I hugged him tight and apologized again for yelling this morning. He said “That’s okay, mommy. I just thought you lost your mind.” From the mouths of babes...