It was Tuesday, December 17th, the last day of pre-k for my twins before Christmas break. Christmas music was calmly drifting throughout our home but I am pretty sure all that my children could hear was me nagging, correcting and hurrying them through our morning routine.
“Please use your fork.”
“Kiddos, pleeeaaase keep your hands to yourself.”
“Let’s finish our breakfast so we aren’t late for school.”
“Seriously? No potty talk at the table.”
“Guys, let’s go. Breakfast is over. Put your dishes in the sink and go get dressed. QUICKLY.”
Most mornings my daughter comes out of her room in about 2 minutes flat, fully dressed, hair brush, detangling spray, hair bow and shoes in hand. My son, on the other hand, most likely will be found in his room 5-7 minutes later with one sock on, underwear on his head, dancing around the room as he belts out the Star Wars theme song at the top of his lungs while shooting imaginary guns in the air.
After the breakfast dishes were put into the dishwasher, lunches were assembled and backpacks were packed for school I hurried down the hallway to find my daughter sitting on the floor of her bedroom in only her purple and white striped tights. No dress, no sweater, no boots or hair accessories in sight. But what I did see was an entire dresser drawer of socks, underwear and pajamas emptied all over the floor.
And I lost it.
Boy did I lose it.
Maybe you know that guttural sound that comes from the pit of your stomach and you can feel it as it claws its way up through your chest, burns your throat and erupts from your mouth in a sound that shocks and frightens you?
Yep, that’s the one.
“WHY AREN’T YOU DRESSED? WHERE IS YOUR DRESS? WHY ARE YOUR CLOTHES ALL OVER THE FLOOR? WHAT IS GOING ON? I TOLD YOU TO GET DRESSED. GET DRESSED NOOOOWW!”
Like I said, I lost it.
Her big blue eyes were larger than life, her bottom lip quivered and tears streamed down her freckled cheeks.
I slammed her door.
I huffed around the house as I packed up the car, made sure her brother was ready for school and marched back into her room. There sat my precious 4 year old, completely dressed with her face buried in her hands. She slowly looked up and said, “Mama, you scared me so bad when you growled at me like that.” Shaking she laid her head softly on her knees as her body trembled with sobs. I crawled onto her bed and held her and whispered in her ear over and over that I was sorry that I scared her and that how I treated her was not right and that she didn’t deserve that.
As I held her in my arms she softly said, “Mama? You want to know why I wasn’t dressed? Well, this was my first time wearing boots with tights and a dress so I was confused. I thought I was supposed to wear socks too and you didn’t pick any out for me so I was looking for a pair that matched my dress. I am sorry.”
After dropping off my kiddos at school, I thought back through the morning, where things went wrong and what I could have done differently. The list was long – very long but in order to make some doable changes to insure my epic crazy fest didn’t happen again (okay – it probably would happen again but maybe it wouldn’t be as intense or maybe not happen in the near-ish future) I narrowed it down to 3 things.
1. Ask a question and then LISTEN to the answer.
Yes – I did ask the question to my daughter, “Why aren’t you dressed?” but to be honest, that question was not asked to hear her answer and it was followed by several other questions and what 4 year old, let alone adult, can answer 5 questions coming at them at rapid fire? Not many.
If I would have simply and calmly asked her the same question and then waited for her response, she probably would have shared with me about her confusion about if she should wear socks or not and we could have talked about it and figured it out together.
2. Sometimes your (almost) capable children still need help.
Writing this sounds so simple to me and so obvious but when I became so used to my daughter being super responsible and knowing what needed to be done and making it happen I think I forgot that she is still a little girl and sometimes needs help. Heck, we all still need help sometimes.
I wonder how that situation would have played out differently if I would have walked into the room and offered to help her or asked her if she needed help? Probably very differently.
3. Evaluate the stress and chaos in your life that you are allowing to impact the interaction you have with your children.
That morning I got up later than I planned, had to wash my hair (because how many days can you really wear your hair in a top knot or put a hat on before the hair situation becomes a little dire? 4? 5? The jury is still out on that one). Even though I have been washing, blow drying, flat ironing and curling my frizzy mane for 12+ years, why do I still underestimate the time it takes? Lunches weren’t made the night before, a never ending list of last minute Christmas plans, gifts and ideas were swirling through my head, and tight finances made my throat tense with anxiety.
I was running late.
I was stressed.
I was not prepared.
I was unorganized.
Therefore I was rushed, frazzled and impatient.
I took that out on my daughter.
And that’s not okay with me.
Obviously, stress is inevitable, so is, at times, over sleeping, not being as prepared as we would like, overreacting to situations, blow drying frizzy hair, expecting too much of our littles…that is all a part of life. We are all going to lose it sometimes. But how can we make it so those times are less intense and not as frequent? It most likely it will look different for each of us but let’s find what works for us to minimize the times that we lose it for the sake of our selves, but more importantly, our children.