“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”
Happy New Year!
We tore off the last page of 2014 and we’re onto the next year.
I must admit, I like setting goals and starting fresh. I do it a few times a year – with natural resets on January 1st, July 1st (my bday) and in September, to begin the new school year.
Starting over is refreshing.
After all, we all know that no one’s life is #pictureperfect.
Mine certainly isn’t. Which is why – in the spirit of a new year – I’m peeling back the fabric for peek behind my imperfect curtain.
This story happened the eve of Winter Break.
Our plan was to meet at five-ish Friday night at 900 North Michigan for our annual visit with Santa. School was out for break and we were diving into Christmas. My husband and Veronica took the el downtown. I drove Stella in the car.
When we reunited, Stephen was in line with Veronica. Stella and I cut the line to join them. With a quick kiss to both of them, I launched into go mode.
I was charged from a long work week and beelined to the mall directory to verify the location of the bathroom – one floor down on the second floor. I flagged my girls and started heading toward the down escalator.
V approached and deadpanned, “I don’t trust you.”
Seriously, what? … trust? What did I do?
Mistake #1: I allowed NO time for transitioning. We barely hugged, and certainly did not download or chit chat about the day’s holiday parties. I was all business with the “Ready? Let’s go, girls. Time to get dressed for Santa.” Things often unravel because of lack of transition. I know this. As a teacher and a mother, I work to minimize the meltdowns with structures and routines all.of.the.time. and yet …
I felt pressure. It was self-invented pressure, of course. We would make back to the Santa line with time to spare and and life would move on. I knew this.
Internally I was spiraling: Stephen’s in line for Santa. The line is moving. The visit ends at 6. We need to hurry in the bathroom and change our clothes. We need to get back in line. The line is moving.
Frazzle. frazzle. I sound c-r-a-z-y.
And I was tense.
She was fired up.
She repeated as if I didn’t hear her the first time, “I don’t trust you.” She marched back to the directory, calling out, “It’s not on the 2nd floor, mommy.”
I let her check.
Apparently my oldest has trust issues.
Kidding. I know she was being dramatic, but my hot button got jabbed for the too-manyith time that day.
You know how this story goes. I just wonder, how much longer until I can figure this one out?
I know this is not my usual story. If you ask me, “Are you in a hurry?,” I’d say, “I’ve got time” and would likely add my two cents about time abundance. Yet I didn’t represent my desired mind-set when we were crammed in a mall bathroom stall.
Instead of feeling the impending magic, I felt grossed out – it had been two weeks of flu-like sickness around my school – and pressured to get ready and out of the stall fast.
I pulled out the clothes I had toted – tights, dresses, fancy shoes, brushes, clips.
I started to rip off the packaging from a new pair of tights when Veronica looked up at me from a standing forward bend: “Don’t touch my tights.”
I put my hands up, in a probably aggressive surrender, “okay.” Clearly, my let’s-get-the-show-on-the-road-attitude was raising negativity.
I took a breathe to keep my I-am-zapped-emotions in check – just cut me some slack, girl, but she continued with, “It was all fine when it was just daddy and I.”
There were more hurtful words, which I have since blocked out. All I know is they felt mean and projected at her sister and I.
I could have realized she wasn’t herself. She was off school sick Monday and Tuesday that week.
I could have recognized I wasn’t myself. It was the Friday before break when school noise level peaks. I’d had one too many students with baggage that day.
I could have run through the simple basic-needs list first. You know: Is she tired? Is she hungry? Did she have ample transition time?
I could have questioned: Am I feeling overwhelmed?
The answer would have been, “yes, yes, yes, yes,” and on continuum “yessssssssssssss.”
It’s primal and what we relied on with our babies. Hungry or tired baby, check. Overwhelmed mommy, check!
It’s the really the same with toddlers, school-age children, and adults too. Hangry, right?
These emotions are nothing new, but when we’re running hot, it’s hard to remember to flip through the basic-needs list first.
I could have, but I didn’t. Instead, I met her feistiness with my own.
Strong-willed daughter meet your strong-willed mommy. I am my mother and my daughter is me.
I bent so my face was level to hers and firmly said (and with clenched teeth): “Drop the attitude.”
I took a minute for effect to set in and continued with a pointed finger: “We don’t talk to each other that way in our family. You don’t get to talk to me like that. You don’t get to talk to your sister like that. I don’t want you talking to anyone like that, but you cannot talk to your family like that.”
I noticed another mom in the bathroom and felt embarrassed she witnessed my upset emotions. I was raising my voice at my child. I was certainly exerting my poweress. I wasn’t screaming, I wasn’t yelling, but I lost my cool … how is that better?
Immediately I knew that I had played into my own tiredness.
I reached for her hand and felt her body tighten.
She pushed past me, opening the bathroom door. She wanted nothing to do with me. Her words stormed through my mind: “It was all fine when it was just daddy and I.”
I felt like an ass. And this was Santa. A Santa visit is not supposed to start defeated. It’s supposed to be magical.
We joined my husband anew and I felt flustered.
He smiled and I rolled my eyes.
With a head shake I whispered mouthed, “foul” to him.
He returned my comment with a shrug, “She fell asleep on the train.”
I looked at her as she peered over the ledge to catch a glimpse of the big man. My baby girl. I went to her again, pulling her in for a hug. This time, she let go.
I handed over my iPhone knowing she needed a “me” moment. She needed to do a little Minecraft-ing while she waited.
In the end, the Santa visit was successful and, other than the first ten minutes of nonsense, the smiles were genuine.
I am a good mommy, I know that. I’m not guilt ridden, c’est la vie. I know I’m the adult and my girls need to be reminded of what’s what sometimes.
I also know that there is some mindfulness work I want to continue, which leads to my Three Goals for 2015.
Slow Down. I’ve written about this here. As reflected above, I’m clearly a work in progress, but slowing down to be in the moment resonates with me. It’s when I start moving too fast that most of my problems pop. And allowing time to transition is critical, for them and for me.
Ignore It with a Hug. My wish for the new year is to pull in with a hug and talk about next time when then emotions fizzle. When we’re both running hot is the time to take my you-can’t-talk-to-me-like-that pride out of the equation and let go. It’s the time to let love rule and break the chain of reaction with a loving action. I have to work on keeping my fast emotions in check – it’s likely a life-long hurtle for me, but I’m up to the challenge.
Seek First to Understand. The next day I took Veronica for hot chocolate and a mothering talk. We chatted about emotions in a child-centered way. I listened and tried to give language to her tiredness. I also shared that I get bogged down too. She suggested we create a code word. This is also where I remind myself to ask the basic-needs questions (see above) and to build understanding over time – daily. I’ve written about that here and here.
We are only human, wrapped in the beauty of imperfection.
I will continue to stumble.
But even when I let my feistiness take over, I will apologize and work to better myself. For love.
Happy New Year!
Ciao for now.