Monday, August 24, 2009

From Temper to Hugs

I have a temper. And I need to come to terms with it. I’m not usually quick to anger. I can handle most stress pretty well, I think. There are certainly situations that push my buttons- but it usually takes repetitive action or purposeful bad choices for me to get angry. But I’ve noticed something that I am not proud of. I’m quick and easy to get angry with my family. The people I love the most. My husband, my daughter, and even my baby boy. I feel like, more and more, my home is feeling less like a happy place. It seems that there is always conflict. If I’m having fun with Teagan, Jeff is cranky. If Jeff and I are getting along well, Teagan is having meltdowns. Zach tends to stay out of the odd cycles so far- but he has his normal almost-2-year-old moments. I tell myself I’m going to choose loving responses. I tell myself I’m going to use the tools I’ve learned in various books. I tell myself I’m going to be the type of parent I aim to be. I pray about it. A lot. And I struggle. Lately, it seems, more than usual. I find that I can get myself into the right mood. I will be looking forward to coming home to my family. I look forward to getting Teagan from school, for the car ride home with her. I look forward to coming home from church to Jeff and Zach. I’m calm, and filled with love, and eager for good times. And I walk in the door and am met with whininess or negativity or complaints or demands. I buckle Teagan into her carseat and she morphs from the sweet, eager to please schoolgirl to the whiney, demanding, crying daughter. I doubt and question myself. Am I putting something out there that is causing my family to believe this is what is expected? That this is what works? Or is our family so secure that we all feel like home and family is the safe place to let out the negative emotions and stress? So my struggle, my goal. My struggle is to fight the immediate fall into the stressed out Mommy place. My goal is to be less emotionally charged and way less of a fly-off-the-handle yeller. I want to be proactive and less reactive. My first step… I finished reading Rage Against the Meshugenah last night and instead of tackling one of those books on my To Be Read Shelf, I’m going back to the basics. I’m going to re-read The 10 Commitments by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller. I’m going back to the work I did on this blog to cover The Only 3 Discipline Strategies You Will Ever Need. I’m not saying I’m a horrible mom. I know that I am doing a good job. We are in a low point right now. Teagan’s hit a growth spurt. Zach is teething. Jeff has a shoulder injury causing almost constant pain. Those are all hard things to deal with. I don’t have any major complaints right now- aside from feeling thinned out by the unspoken demands to be the caretaker for all 3 of my loved ones and also feeling that I’m failing in that role. I know other homes are far worse off than ours. I know other married couples who fight constantly or have really nasty battles in front of their kids. I know spankers and abusers and belittlers are out there. I know my kids know they are loved- even when I’m angry. I can see that there isn’t something broken inside of them. But I also want to make sure we don’t get to that point. I want to do my best to teach Teagan & Zach better ways of handling stress and bad moods. Better ways to respond. From time to time, I wonder if I don’t need to “talk to someone.” From time to time, I wonder if my temper isn’t normal or is somehow tied to my childhood and maybe I have some residual anger issues I haven’t cleared out. Or maybe the fears of my childhood are bubbling closer to the surface- the things that hurt me and my fears over those things ever impacting my children. Or maybe I’m just stretched thin. Maybe it’s just harder than we (parents, adults) are “allowed” to admit. Maybe working full time, the new daycare and school routine, the everyday life things, the involvement levels, the dance classes, the church involvement… Maybe it’s just regular, everyday stress that is building and building. And if that’s the case- how do I step back and fix it? First thing- and I will make sure Jeff reads this- we have to get our house organized. I don’t mean it has to be “clean.” But we have to make a commitment, together, to pick up around the house very evening. If we both do 15 minutes of housework right after we put the kids to bed, we will get a lot done. Picking up the living room, doing dishes, picking up the kitchen. If those main living spaces can feel less crowded than they do right now, that will help everyone involved. Second thing- Self discipline. I have to take the advice I am constantly giving my daughter and am starting to work into my son. Choice, choose, decide, pick. I decide how I am going to respond. And, again, I need Jeff in on this one. When I’m being Cranky Mommy… if I can’t hear it myself or can’t stop myself, I want Jeff to intervene. With a key word. So I can stop myself. I want a key word in my head. Because I hear myself and I know the way I am acting. I know when I am being snippy or naggy. I know when I am fueling the fire. And I need to be more mindful of the choices I am making. Third- It needs to be all of us. Daddy, Teagan, and Mommy all have to be in on this positivity thing. Especially Daddy. I need Jeff’s support on this and I need him to be making the same efforts. I am amazed at how much my mood and my choices are influenced by his mood and his choices. Doesn’t make me right or wrong- it’s an observation. But when he appears to be unhappy or glum or dissatisfied… it completely throws me off. So it needs to be both of us, working together. One major thing that will help- and this is what changed the tide yesterday- is more hugs. We got home and we were all still snippy and snappy and mad. Kids go down for naps, I got a short nap, Jeff got a little nap… and he and I still needed to make up. He came over and said “Hug me.” And we hugged each other and were then able to talk about what had happened that afternoon. Hugging. Gotta do more of it. Ah ha! The key word! The key word is an action! Hugs. When I hear Jeff being negative… when he hears me being negative… we can, together, change the tide by hugging. And I know full well that there will be times that I will tell him I don’t want to or I don’t need it… but that’s all the more reason to stop and hug, isn’t it? To stop, be held, to hold, to breathe deeply, and to feel not so alone. While yesterday was a rough day and while yesterday is what originally inspired this outpouring of stress… this has been coming for a long time. Well, weeks anyway. I feel like I sound a bit like a broken record because I know I’ve been down this path before. And I know that other people have these stressful times. And I know lots of people make efforts to fight through it. So why am I doing this again? We went to the Fair again yesterday- the entire family. Had a great time until things started to unravel and it got uglier and uglier and I got pretty nasty and it just wasn’t a good day. But we got home and took naps and had dinner and hugged and things started getting better. We had an assignment for Teagan’s school. Last week and this week is “All About Me” as the kids get to know each other and figure out ways to share themselves with their classmates. Teagan’s assignment for today was to bring in a family photo. Would you believe that we don’t have a single family picture with all 4 of us in it? So yesterday evening, after a rotten trip to the Fair, a lot of fighting and general yuckiness, we whipped out the camera, set up the tripod, and took 3 pictures out on the deck, hoping to get something for Teagan to take to school. I had been in my pj’s and just threw on a t-shirt. My hair had been in little half ponytails the whole day so I had to whip my hair around, my kids were looking like little ruffians with various stains and dirty faces and mussed hair. My husband was in pain and was exhausted and was recovering from being beaten down by his wife. And yet, because we haven’t broken, because we fight through it, because we work together to seek out solutions… we came up with this. Amen.


Alison said...

It sounds like you're teaching your kids that arguments are part of life ('cause they are), but they don't have to threaten relationships. My parents taught me that arguments lead to days' worth of anger and grudges. I still struggle with that, when I know Miss Chef is mad at me; it makes me tiptoe around her instead of confronting the issue.

Anyway, even when you think you're being "bad," I think you're still showing your kids how real adults deal with real life. Sometimes they yell and say the wrong things, but hell, that's life.

If you want to make yourself feel better, watch one of those Nanny shows on tv--now THOSE families haven't a clue!

Teacher Tom said...

I agree with everything Flartus wrote.

I had a parent educator once tell us, "If you do all the things you read in parenting books 35 percent of the time, you're the best parent in the world." You could feel the whole room relax.

An enormous industry has arisen out of preying on the insecurities of mothers. As a preschool teacher, I get to know too many young women who are tied into knots over every detail of their parenting. As you point out, I've learned that it's enough to just love your kids to be a great parent.

Men tend to get twice the credit and half the blame when it comes to parenting. That's because we're graded almost exclusively on effort and earnestness.

We could all get better, but it's only when you quit caring that there's a problem.


Eternal Lizdom said...

Wise words from you both- thank you for that. Writing it all out always seems to help. Becuase it brings it down to what it is. Real life. Choices. Take it as it comes. And underneath it all is love- no matter what, there is love.

Collette said...

Frederick Douglass said "Without a struggle there can be no progress".

You are a voice in a world of confused parents. Use the talent you've been given. I love you.

Mary Louisa said...

Liz, I am a very laid back person, but even I can be moved to anger out of proportion to the violation when I am stretched too thin, as you noted you were in your post. It is no wonder that you are having some moments right now, with the entire family under some great stressors! PLEASE don't feel guilty about snapping when clearly the circumstances are all against you. (((HUGS)))

Another thing that makes me prone to snapping is when I am at certain points in my cycle. Have you noticed a relation to your hormonal shifts? If so, can you pre-plan some space from the family those days?

You are doing a great job. :)

Unknown said...

Ok, so I'm not going to say much but her's what I've got. I've know you a long time and know exactly what you are going through.
Philip and I have the same exact situation going on in our home. Hugs are fantastic!!! You are right. And sometimes you need to force your self to give or get the hug...but it changes the tides.
Hang in there!! If you have committed to the change, it will happen.
Stay realistic and don't set your goals too high. Baby steps Lizzy. You can't change it all at once and you can't change it overnight...but you'll be surprised how the baby steps make such a difference.

Anonymous said...

Liz, I think you're going in the right direction. You are an excellent example of trying to be the vest parent possible & I thank you for that!

You have a beautiful family!