The other day Tiny came up to me and said, “mean mommy.” She then followed that up with, “fun daddy.” Oh gawd! That is my nightmare.
I am a lot of things but I am not mean. But to a 2 year old, looking at the way I react to certain situations, I can see how I was perceived as “mean.” Which got me thinking and blogging and thinking and blogging.
This month I have been focused on anger in parenting and the repercussions that this can have on children. But what if even the most peaceful parent did a really poor job sometimes in how he or she reacted to certain situations? And even though this parent is not upset with their child, their child is too young to differentiate between mommy being mad at them and mommy being mad at whatever happened. Or maybe not mad at what happened but simply not doing a good job of handling whatever was going on in that moment.
Monday was a really raunchy day for Tiny and I. It started out all wrong and got progressively worse. However, I was handling everything with grace and warmth. Until the exploding can of chemicals!
You see, a can of fix-a-flat decided to erupt everywhere. Thankfully, Tiny was not in the immediate danger zone but I was. I was covered in green chemical slime and pissed off about it. I was mostly mad that Tiny could have taken a direct hit had she been hovering like she usually does. Of course, the exploding foamy mess scared the daylights out of Tiny and her natural reaction was to run towards me crying and wanting to be held. Well, this is where I did a really poor job of handling the moment. In an effort to keep the chemicals off of my precious Tiny I screamed at her to get away. When she briefly retreated, I screamed at her again to stay away. This in turn made her scared as all heck and she again ran towards me. She was quick and I grabbed her and sort of instinctually threw her out of the danger zone. And this, my dear readers, is how I became the mean mommy.
Tiny was a mess. She was visibly scared of me. She looked soooooo tiny. Seriously, she was like a little turtle hiding in her shell. She was not even crying at this point. She was too scared to. She sat on a little chair while I cleaned up the mess and cowered. And my stomach turned and rolled and I wanted to cry. But instead, I went over to her, gave her a huge slimy hug, and apologized for my reaction. I told her that I was mad about the situation and not at all upset with her. I showered her with love and kisses and prayed to God that she would forget about this quickly. But I could tell she would not. Poor Tiny seemed on edge all day and was not exactly warm towards me.
By late afternoon (after a nap gone awry) Tiny was pretty snarky. We were again having some technical difficulties with life (egg with formed baby bird fell out of tree and exploded in a million pieces) and even though I was doing a better job handling that situation, that was when Tiny announced that I was mean mommy.
I was shocked at first. I mean, how does she even know what mean is? But then I remembered. When I was apologizing I told Tiny that it was mean of me to yell and scream at her to stay away when I should have just calmly told her to sit on the chair and watch me clean up the mess. Err…
All of this has really got that hamster in my brain running on its wheel. Although I am a very loving mother who peacefully parents Tiny to the best of my ability, I am terrible at handling “dangerous” or “borderline dangerous” situations (whether Tiny is involved or not). I react sharply, loudly, and apparently meanly. Instead of taking a very quick moment to compose myself to deal with the situation, I just react. And 9 times out of 10 I have a reaction that probably scares the life out of Tiny. For example, our dog is HUGE and could easily eat Tiny (not literally). When he starts to play rough around her, I react sharply, usually hollering at Tiny to move and then hollering at the dog. Another example would be when I opened a kitchen cabinet and the contents came spilling out. Again…there I went with the screaming.
Now, I kind of think that these reactions are not totally something I can control. If Tiny could be or is in immediate danger of injury then a loud reaction to get her attention is probably what my brain is thinking is appropriate. My heart however now realizes that these horrific reactions could undo all of the love and trust that I have with Tiny. Ok – I am being dramatic…no it will not completely undo my relationship with Tiny but it sure as heck can make her a little leery of me. I clearly do not want that at all.
As I see it, poor reactions to situations and life’s moments can be just as bad as parenting with anger. I need to really make a conscious effort to better handle myself during these times. I do not want Tiny to fear me, to be rattled by me, or to tremble in fear because of my reaction to something that had nothing at all to do with her. I want her to see that I am a peaceful parent but that I am also a peaceful person. I want her to see that I can take on anything life throws at me and do so with grace and composure. I want to kick my exasperated sighs square in the rump and tell them never to invade the peace I am trying to create. I want to take my yelps, hollering, and yelling and tell it to kiss off. So guess what – that is exactly what I am going to do. My goal is to NOT have a bad reaction to anything for three days. Once I conquer that then I will continue on for the remainder of a week. After that mountain has been climbed then I will trek ahead and remain peaceful and calm for an entire month. And so it will go from there.
I recognize that I may very well fail at some point but I will dust myself off and forage ahead. I will be sure to explain to Tiny WHY I reacted the way I did and show her what it is that had me acting like a “mean mommy.” Most importantly, I will take all the time necessary to immediately reconnect with her in a warm and peaceful way so she remembers who I really am as a mother. Because I am not a mean mommy.