It seems like so much of parenting these days with my 5 year old and 21 month old is the unexpected.
We had just finished dinner (picture spaghetti and peas all over the floor from my (almost) 2 year old's latest favorite dinner activity) and I am focused on what needs to be done to get these tired children to bed (and Momma a much needed break). Do they need a bath? They had a bath last night, right? My husband had to stay at the office late because he had a client in crisis so with only me doing bedtime duty, the next question is, who needs to get to bed first. My daughter had been fighting a cold the last few days so I wanted to get her to bed first. My son offered to fill the humidifier in his sister's room and I am getting sister in pjs and nursing her and reading her books. After several trips from the bathroom to the bedroom it occurred to me, that humidifier has got to be full by now. But no, he says, not yet. And then it occurred to me, why is there water running in the bathroom?
"Turn off the water," I call to my son.
And then, perhaps a bit too late, mother intuition kicks in. I run to the bathroom and there is water all over the floor - the very new floor that my husband just installed a month ago due to mold under the old floor. My son has this habit of pushing down the stopper in the sink and for some reason, who knows why, he was leaving the water running while taking all those trips to his sister's room... And now the bathroom is flooded, filling the drawers and cabinets below the sink and soaking the rug.
I had a pile of towels in the living room ready to bring down to the laundry room and grabbed the whole pile and began mopping up the water. I'd like to say I remained calm during this time and kept my mouth shut... I wish I had. Silence speaks so much louder and kinder and full of less regret in such moments.
It's oh so different looking back now. But in the moment, I've got a sick toddler that should have been in bed long ago and a boy who also just needs to be in bed. And remember the humidifier in my daughter's room? There's water all over her room, soaking her rug as well.
I don't like to physically pick up my son to get him to do what I want him to do (go straight to bed, do not get a snack, do not go pee, do not brush your teeth.) There is a parenting saying that I really believe in despite struggling at times to put it into practice. It says, start as you mean to go. Meaning, don't do something now that you don't want to (or can't do) years down the road. There will come a day (rather soon) where I will not be able to pick up my son. Nor do I want to be doing that to my 5 year old. He is not a baby who might need to be picked up and distracted when doing something he should not. He is 5 and the responsibility needs to rest on him to obey me.
But there is a flooded bathroom and a sick toddler and the boy just needs to be in bed. So I pick him up and plop him in bed, saying more things loudly that I will later regret. And did I just slam his door? I'm re-living my teenage years here and I'm supposed to be the parent! I don't allow him to slam his door and I just slammed his door. Sigh. I climb the stairs and at the top of the stairs is my 2 year old who, when she sees me, points her index finger at me and yells, (mimicking me) "Go to bed!"
Definitely a cringe-worthy parenting moment.
"I'm sorry," I say to my daughter. I finish mopping up the water off her floor and put her to bed.
And as I'm cleaning the bathroom, (our kitty helps by lapping up some of the water), I have time to think and time to calm down. I never thought I'd be a yeller as a parent. I consider myself to be a patient and calm person. But I have my moments, certainly more moments now with two kiddos than when I just had one. Oh what a different parent I am with two kids... not all bad, not all good. But I'm not okay with being a yeller. I don't want to yell. I don't want to be someone who just reacts to a situation rather than responds to it. I'm mopping up the mess my son made and less angry now, but now, the guilt is starting to settle in.
It's "All Hallows Eve" and my daughter is sick and my husband is working late and my son flooded the bathroom and I'm yelling and putting my kids to bed without brushing their teeth. And this year we won't be starting a new tradition of baking pumpkin pie and eating popcorn while watching, "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." Maybe next year.
After I clean the bathroom, I go down to my son's room and sit with him on the bed. I begin by apologizing.
"You were so angry, Mom."
I was. And it's ok that I got angry. The problem is that now, because of my poor reaction, it has now became less about what my son did and more about what I did. Sure he felt bad about what he did. But I'm the one awake at midnight, feeling guilty, trying to think of a way to make it up to him. And it's not until I decide we can build a haunted gingerbread house together after school, that I can fall asleep. How did it come to this? How quickly we got off track.
What do I want to teach my kids about anger? I'm certainly teaching them whether it's intentional or not. I want them to know that it's okay to be angry, but not to hurt people or things in our anger. I want them to have outlets for their anger other than yelling or slamming doors. I want to teach them to seek forgiveness and take responsibility for their anger. And to forgive. Forgive themselves and others. How about you? What do you want to teach your kids about anger?