I feel like I’ve already lied to you. Maybe you have this idea that I’m the kind of mom who always uses parenting best practices like mirroring my toddler’s feelings, encouraging my baby to sleep independently and making healthy, nutritious meals at every turn. False.
I lose my temper too often, Bear largely took swing naps for most of summer, and Fox ate frozen waffles and cheese pizza for dinner last night.
That’s most of the time, but sometimes I’m really bad. I lose my cool in ways that I immediately regret and sometimes I feel like maybe, just maybe, I’ve done something to crack the foundation of my sons’ love. So how does one recover?
Admit you made mistakes.
I think it’s dangerous to make yourself infallible in your children’s eyes. Better to own your humble humanity early and often than to set yourself up for a colossal fall later. In confessing your mistakes, use language your child can replicate to express his or her own instances of remorse.
Pick something that’s a guaranteed win-story time, bath time, a walk, etc. Even if it falls outside of your scheduled time for this activity, do something to bring you back together. It can be as simple as an invitation to see or hear something. Fox loves hearing my hummingbird music box or seeing toys from when I was a kid (my Sylvanian collection is quite awesome). I think kids just like knowing that for those moments, they have YOU, their most rewarding prize, and hopefully, shared and engaged moments trump enraged ones.
Make a commitment to a better tomorrow.
Of course, we all hope that there will be no next time, and when I’m at my most remorseful, I’d like to believe I’ll never be impatient, terse or cranky again, but that’s probably not realistic. Instead of just pledging to improve, name at least one concrete thing you can do differently the next time. For my toddler, I like to offer substitute phrases or actions: “Next time, instead of hitting the dog when he’s sniffing your toy, you could…” For myself, I’ve asked Fox to remind me to take some breaths when he can see I’m getting upset. This is a strategy I’ve given him as well, but I’m hoping he’ll sense its power (and his) when he encourages a grown up to breathe.
When you have a chance, think about the context of your blow up. What factors pushed you or your child over the edge? Sometimes, when Fox chases the dog at night, he’s covering up the fact that he has a dirty diaper. If I can check and address the diaper early on, I might be able to prevent the interactions with the dog that drive me crazy. Both Fox and I get very “hangry.” Maybe your crew has similar triggers, so try to identify obvious factors like hunger, tiredness, or discomfort associated with bad mom moments. Carry snacks in your purse or car, set a firm nap time and be ready with weather appropriate extras such as a sweater or a sunshade for the car window. These sound like things a super prepared mom would do, but even mediocre little old me can manage a few of them if I take time to reflect on what’s gone poorly and why.
I can’t imagine there’s a parent out there who feels she’s getting it right all of the time, although there’s probably quite a few who pretend it’s true on Facebook. For the rest of us, there will be times when we wish we could delete things we’ve said and done from our kids’ memories. However, I’d like to believe that by seeking to connect, developing strategies for improvement and reflecting on what’s working and what’s not, we can minimize those bad mom moments and focus on enjoying our time with the most meaningful people in our lives.
How do you recover from bad mom moments? I’d love to hear some more suggestions from moms who have been there.