This isn’t really a confession. There are things that I do as a parent that up until recently I never really felt guilty about. I especially don’t think that I’m doing any long-term real damage to my kids. I’m a good mom who happens to lose her cool every once in a while and who delivers ‘Time-Outs.’ Or, ‘Quiet Time,’ as I or my partner sees fit.
I’m okay with the fact that I’m not an impenetrable, forever sweet, and calm mother. In the very least, I’m not raising any self-entitled kids.
It’s all too easy as a writer/blogger in the sphere of the honest, of the martyrs, of the sanctimommies, to judge oneself. Which, if we’re talking about re-analyzing how I do things as a parent, testing my own boundaries and being a kind mother, even when it’s really really hard… I’m all for that. Debates are good. Challenge is good. Shutting each other down, however, is not.
What I’m not down with is the trending amount of pretentious diatribes that I’ve been coming across as of late. All of the moms who never yell, never give their kid a time-out, and are surely going to tell you why you should never be doing those things either. I don’t care about Pinterest-worthy birthday parties or how clean you keep your house. You go on with your bad self in that regard. Not gonna hate on that! But enough with the mommy-shaming. There is a difference between a person who isn’t in touch with their emotions, who can’t control their own reactions around their children where kindness is lost and true damage can occur, and someone like me. And others like me, over here waving HIIII!!!! I’m a real human being! Sometimes my kids see how their behavior affects me, in real time.
There’s always a better way, we’re led to believe. How we’re doing it is wrong, or would be better if done this way, or that way, or another.
Just no to all of that. Most of us? Most of us are doing the best that we can. I know that personally, as a survivor of childhood abuse, I am very conscious of my triggers everyday. Kindness and patience are my nearest and dearest characteristics that I strive everyday to embody. With my children, with myself. So here’s where the “myself” part comes in. I allow myself to breathe deep and accept myself, even when my toddlers have continued to throw food at me, or sat down in the middle of the grocery store aisle and flipped their lid, sauced me times a thousand, hollered and cried and whimpered and whined at me to the point of all my insides curdling and I just boil over.
Because that happens. Not in the holy hell of wrath sort of way that us yelling, time-out giving mommies are depicted as, but rather as a human with emotion. A human who loves her kids and just yelled, “ENOUGH! THAT’S IT!” Or, “WYNDHAM! ABIGAIL!”
I find myself shouting their names more often than not. (When I do raise my voice, that is.) There has been the even more rare occasion that I have cursed. (The horrors!) And I work very hard everyday to better myself in that regard. I don’t want to swear around my kids out of frustration and hurt. That’s a part of my work. Not theirs. It’s not like they are intentionally hurting me, right? They’re not really sucking my brains dry, right? (This is the sort of self-talk I give myself when I feel I’ve been perhaps a little too real.)
I know how to apologize to my kids. And sometimes, sometimes when I’ve raised my voice, or slammed the door a little too hard when sending them to their room after a particularly FANTASTICAL good row, I don’t feel the need to apologize at all. I don’t think for a split second that I’m doing anything wrong. I actually tend to think that it’s okay for my children, when it warrants, (and I’ll be the judge of that thank-you very much!) for them to know when I’m angry or sad or hurt. I believe that these things can be positive teachings as well. Listen, there are a myriad of ways we can teach our children to be compassionate, empathetic human beings. I’m not saying that yelling at my kids constantly is how I think I’m doing that. Becasue that’s not what goes down.
I’m more challenged every day to not yell, not lose my cool. Because I am developing (trying anyways), to develop a relationship with my children that is based on love and respect, not fear. So before you think I’m some raging, hollering mama who throws her kids in their room constantly, then you haven’t been listening.
One of my favourite tactics to employ when I’m in an escalated situation with either or both of my kids, is deep breathing and getting down on my knees. Oh, you bet I get down on my knees for my kids. I get right down on their level and try to appeal to them with soft spoken, true, and honest words. I find that those two simple physical responses, deep breathing and getting on my knees to hold their hands and look in their eyes when I speak to them is all I need to do to turn a situation around. For me and them.
Then there are the other times, that no amount of sweet talk, real talk, or talking AT ALL is going to help. What everyone needs is some time to calm the eff down. Toddlers, in the heat of the moment when they’re wailing and throbbing and pulsating and kicking; can’t be controlled. I don’t want to try and control that. I want to give my kid space and time to breathe it out. Heck, I need some breathing time to cool down too!
The thing is? Time-outs work for us. Or whatever the heck else you want to call it. The key is, that I’m not just banishing my kid(s) to their room. I give them some time to calm down a bit, in fact we love this technique (thanks Shirley!) After a few moments, or, you know, when the wailing/screaming subsides, one (or both) of us parents goes in the room to talk and hug things out. We are a very affectionate family. Especially when things spiral out of control (Which, my friends, is daily because HI THERE! We’re parents of toddlers!), I find the best way to talk out the difficult stuff is to do so when cuddling, so that’s what we do. It feels good. It feels natural. Nothing contrived, nothing fancy. (Except for those calming glitter bottles, those are pretty fancy!)
With my eldest, who will be 4-years-old in November, it has gotten to the point in his experience with Time Outs that he verbally expresses his appreciation for them. I kid you not. Perhaps not when going in, and definitely not always, but after he’s calmed down, Zombie boy is gone and Sweet Boy hath returned. He gives me kind eyes and touches both my arms (he learned that from me!) and says he’s sorry, and why. We both express remorse over what just happened and express to each other that we’d much rather be laughing and having fun than fighting. He gets it. There is an honest stage of development happening right now for my guy, wherein he’s truly learning about his emotions. How his emotions, displays of those emotions, and his subsequent behaviours affect other people. He is wading through complicated feelings of remorse, guilt, anger, frustration, helplessness, displacement, and anxiety to name a few. I think it’s my responsibility as a parent to focus on the development of how my young children experience and deal with those less than joyful, positive, hunky-dory feelings too.
In our home, time-outs aren’t a punishment. They are a consequence. A time for my children to experience their feelings without feeling shamed or silly. I’m not trying to make work out of teaching my kids how to internalize their emotions when they are less than desirable. Now that’s what I call intentional, connected parenting.
I know a thing or two about the sort of childhood that can cause a grown adult to end up in therapy. Getting yelled at occasionally and being put in time-outs with glitter bottles ain’t it.
More Babbles From Selena…
- 10 Books For Whiny, Bossy, Picky Toddlers
- Realistic School Lunch Ideas For Toddlers
- 10 Reasons Why I’m Glad My Kids Are Close In Age
- What NOT To Say To The Parents of Toddlers
- After-School Activities For Toddlers
- 10+ Things We Did (and Do) To Save Our Relationship (During The Early Years of Parenting)
Elsewhere on the internets…
Via her humble beginnings, mastering in general mayhem: le petit rêve