Coming from a family that was nothing short of problematic ignited a determination within me to do parenting differently. So in moments where I fall short and recognize it as a result of my upbringing, especially when it involves my temper, my emotions go beyond the average mom guilt. This situation, though, was more extreme than any other to the point where I went to the cross at church the next morning to repent because of how utterly terrible I felt for my actions as her mother.
Letting the temper take over
This incident was two days in the making. Two days of my 4-year-old asking me to play dolls with her. The first day, I really was so very busy trying to get some things in order, but the second day was filled with countless “maybe later’s” that I never committed to.
Bedtime rolled around and I still had yet to sit and play dolls with her. My husband was on mid-shift which meant that he wasn’t home throughout the night and she knew that. So I thought the numerous times I asked her why she still wasn’t asleep in the three hours after I had put her to bed were just excuses for her to try and sleep with me (which shouldn’t have been a problem either!)
Her final sneak into my room sent me over the edge. My three-hour attempt at trying to get her to sleep only for her to come say to me “I just want you” turned my temper into a rage. And why?? She just said one of the sweetest things she could possibly say). My tone went beyond a raised voice and a monster took over when my daughter just wanted me.
And the guilt sets in
I didn’t truly listen to her or hear her needs and I let the frustrations from the hours before take control. It wasn’t just at that moment but in every moment that she had asked me to play with her. A few minutes passed and the overpowering rush of guilt from my temper kicked in. I could not let that be the interaction she fell asleep to; seeing and hearing me act the way I had.
In the midst of all of this my one year old woke up, too (understandably), and struggled to go back to sleep. I decided it was necessary that I make sure my oldest felt loved when I gave her every reason to feel fear. I wasn’t going to get my youngest asleep any faster than if I just snuggled up with her. So we all crawled into the twin-sized, top bunk in their room and everyone was asleep in a matter of minutes.
What I thought was my genius four year old trying to use the fact that her dad was gone as a way to sleep in my room was, in fact, her literally telling me what she needed, me not listening and then taking it completely wrong.
After the awful moment between us, me taking some deep breaths, and the revelation I got the following day, it was clear that I was going to start saying YES more to playing with my daughter. Saying that out loud sounds terrible because playing with my kids shouldn’t be a struggle and I, most definitely, DO play with my kids. But you don’t realize how many things start dictating your life until you start putting them all before your kids. Yes, food in everyone’s bellies and clean clothes to wear out of the house need to get done but kids need us for more than just those things.
Making a change
To help us both out, I have decided that any time my daughter asks me to play with her I say yes, and right in that moment (or as close to it) I give her at least 20 minutes of my complete time. That means if the baby needs a diaper change during that time, the few minutes it takes to cover that isn’t taken from the time I’ve promised. Looking at the plan from my computer screen seems bizarre but it’s a transition that will take time, patience, and practice. But I do feel that it will benefit us both immensely.