Yeah today was one of those days. The classic “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” type of days. It seemed the kids were upset before we ever left the bed, the baby needed a diaper change, the dog refused to go out, and I just wanted to make breakfast. I felt myself withdrawing and just wanted to start the day over.
It’s like the universe just knows you are already struggling. It’s the type of day where you just feel kinda sad. Then every little things seems to go wrong. You drop everything, coffee spills, kids keep getting hurt, trash tips over. And on and on. Maybe on a good day these normal things are mild frustrations that you just breeze through, but on this type of day each thing just piles up.
These are the days it’s easier to slip up and yell at the kids. It is much more difficult to stay mindful and present for me, and when my mind wanders my gentle parenting tools seem farther from reach. I don’t mean to sound so negative, but this is an honest picture of where I was at today. I don’t always have sunshine and rainbows type of days even though we unschool and believe in gentle parenting.
I have come far in how I handle these days. Years ago I would just try to get through it telling myself it was okay if I snapped at the kids a bit because everyone has bad days. They’ll be alright. Truly if it happens, and sometimes it does, they will be alright. That does not mean it’s okay if I give myself permission to take out my mood on them though. They are not responsible for my feelings, my hard day.
So about halfway through our day, I laid down the two youngest for a nap. I had managed to stay fairly calm despite my mood. I had set us up a relaxed, slow paced day and expectations were realistic. Then, just as my toddler just falls asleep I hear it. I hear my older two in a very loud argument. I wasn’t surprised. Kids have an amazing ability to pick up on our vibes. Often, my bad mood translates into a similar mood for them. My 5 year old seems particularly sensitive to this.
I jumped out of bed hoping to quiet the fight before it ended the much needed nap of my toddler. I was frustrated and wanted to yell. I wanted to threaten something mean in that moment. I even started to. The words began to come out of my mouth. But I stopped them. That is one thing I’ve gotten better at through my years of practice. I do not have to continue my tantrum. I don’t have to finish what I started if it isn’t going to help our connection.
So I stopped. I stopped my thought and set up the kids in the way we do so that I could help facilitate problem solving and good communication. I heard each child out, validating and paraphrasing. I reframed it back to the other child. We figured out what each kid was feeling and how it led to the behavior. We talked about how we might handle things differently next time. I really didn’t feel like handling it that way at that moment, but again, the kids are not responsible for my feelings.
Then I invited them to play a game with me. I had imagined spending the toddler nap time watching a TV show and hoping the others would play together while it happened. It was clear that wasn’t in their capability at the time. Their behavior was telling me they needed connection with me. So I invited them to play. Elijah set up legos on the table, while Hailey set up a board game. So I played Legos in between my turns. Hailey destroyed me in Sorry. Elijah liked his Lego man beating up mine.
Now they are playing together and getting along I’m sitting on the couch, window open, feeling a breeze. Maybe I’ll get to watch a few minutes of TV after all.
Our day has many hours left in it, and I don’t know if it’s going to not be one of those days anymore. I still feel kinda blah, but I certainly feel much better than earlier. Play is good for me too apparently.