Temper Tantrums {My Own}

The other day Em, totally exasperated, said: "Mom, you said you'd try not to get your madness on me." That girl likes to call me out on things, but she was right. I said I'd try to be nicer but was instead getting my mad-ness all over her. (She was also right when she observed, "I think you didn't get enough sleep, Mom.")

How do you control your temper? You have one, right? Please say it's not just me. Stress and sleep-deprivation (aka life with a baby) bring my own temper bubbling to the surface. Sometimes I catch myself snapping at Em, the ugliness flying out of my mouth, and think: What am I doing? I shouldn't be acting like this...and still I can't stop.
But anger-highs are as fleeting as sugar-highs and leave an even longer wake of remorse.

I feel like I can muster up a pretty decent degree of patience most of the time (four years with a strong-willed child will do that for you), but what about when your kid's on their fifteenth breakdown of the day (or hour)? Or those intense moments when you have two kids crying at the same time, or you're running late and can't get out the door? Or you're just having a bad day
And so I bring you….

 Put yourself in time out. I haven't been very successful at putting Em in time out lately, but was surprised how well she reacted when I explained that I was having a hard time being nice and needed to have a time out. I guess what kid wouldn't like seeing their parent undergo the discipline usually reserved for them? She was oddly respectful and let me go into my room without a fight. It was like I found a trap door out of a tense situation and gave us both time to calm down. Even if your kid bangs on the door the whole time, having the door as a buffer can help protect them from your anger and you from regretful actions. 

(So, that worked one time....probably means it'll work every time, right? Cause kids are super consistent like that.)

Let the storm rage on. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.) You don't have to change how your child is feeling or get sucked into their emotional hurricane. Just be there for them while they ride out the storm. This is healthy practice for us adults, too. To feel our emotions--even the uncomfortable ones--instead of numbing them. It's strangely comforting to remind myself how little control I have over a given situation. I can surrender instead of wear myself out trying to control the uncontrollable.

I have a particularly hard time with screaming babies (guessing I'm not the only one...) I used to attach to Em's crying, especially in the car, and feel the anger/frustration quickly mount until I thought I might explode if I had to endure said crying for one more second. But with Haven I've practiced detaching from the crying. Babies are going to cry. It's stressful and unpleasant, but as Em reminded me today, "It's just what babies do." (Wise little lady.) There will be times when you can’t respond to them immediately (because Hart of Dixie is on. Joke. Because you’re showering or sauteing something or peeing or helping another kid...) There will also be times when you have met every possible need you can fathom for your little bundle, and they're still going to scream. When I change my goal to simply enduring crying instead of feeling like I have to make it stop, it becomes much more bearable. (Back to that surrender thing.)

Search for the root. I have to remember that when Em throws a tantrum about not getting a certain color cup, it's not about the cup. What's the real root of her crankiness? Not enough sleep? Too much TV? Not enough connection? It's easy to be frustrated and think, It's just a stupid cup! Kids are ridiculous! But dig deeper and see if you can uncover the problem behind the problem. And if you don't have the energy to remedy it right then, make a mental note for the future. (Or maybe I’m wrong and it really is just about the cup.)

Keep your patience tank fullWhen I catch myself lashing out with alarming frequently, it usually means I haven't been taking care of myself. I can't put off self-nurturing any longer, or my kids (and anyone else within range), will continue to suffer for it. It's much easier to deal with the shenanigans of kids when you are well-rested, well-fed, and have had a break recently. That's been my biggest temper-related revelation of late. Rather than labor over how to rein in my rage in those volcanic moments, I should prevent myself from getting to that ready-to-erupt place in the first place. Do whatever it takes to equip yourself with a nice, long fuse.

Know your triggers. And then put that knowledge to good use and plan accordingly! If being late really gets to you, start getting ready twenty minutes before you normally would, so that when your baby poops and your toddler melts down and you can’t find your phone, you can still be kind of on time. If whining makes you want to claw your own eyeballs out, have a system in place to deal with it. (Love and Logic has some good, actionable ideas.) You know your pet peeves and you can outsmart them!
Check out her article, "Dear Mom Who's Trying to Do It All"
Cut yourself some slack. If you beat yourself up for losing your temper, you'll probably keep on losing it. Negativity just spawns negativity like that, and shame turns into hopelessness. You are human and you are trying your best. Take the opportunity to apologize and show your kids that you're struggling to become better just like they are. And the cool thing about kids is how readily they forgive. Most of the time :) 

How do you keep your cool? I'd love to hear what works for you in the comments section. (Even if--no, especially if--it involves Popsicles and sprinklers :)


A few thoughts on having a second child

Are you contemplating the idea of a second (or third, or fourth) child? Weighing various pros and cons of timing? Praying you can even get pregnant again? Having anxiety about extreme morning sickness? Nursing trauma from postpartum depression? Wondering if you're ready?

I came to the conclusion that it's kind of like the first baby--you can never be totally ready. But you can be ready enough. I received some great advice from a friend with whom I shared my reluctance. She simply said: "Wait until you're excited about the idea of another baby." Block out pressure from family, friends, society--even your own preconceived notions--and determine if your reasons for feeling like its time to try for another baby ring true to you. (Oh, and the other person in the it-takes-two-to-tango equation...should probably take them into account.)

Obviously family planning decisions are super personal and there are numerous factors, but here's a bit about my experience. This quote largely sums up my feelings about deciding to have another baby:

"There was that law of life, so cruel and so just, that one must grow or else pay more for remaining the same." 
-Norman Mailer

My daughter had reached a point of relative self-sufficiency. I didn't have to change diapers or spoon-feed her, she could clearly communicate her needs (and demands :), we were both sleeping through the night...things were breezy! The idea of starting over at zero was daunting (and the postpartum depression trauma didn't help.) It's hard to willingly leave our comfort zones, to veer from our well-worn ruts. But like Mr. Mailer warns, we pay the price if we don't. Growth can come in a million forms, so maybe a second child isn't the answer to your own growth needs, but I felt like it was for mine at that time. (And I'm grateful that I was able to get pregnant and sympathize with those who would love another baby but have been unable to.)

Now jump to after baby. Thankfully many of the things that I found so challenging and tear-worthy with Em have been much easier with Haven. This is the quote that sums up my feelings about mothering a second child:

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." 
-Nelson Mandela

It's been incredibly gratifying to meet motherhood (mothering-a-baby-motherhood) again and see the many ways in which I've altered. Maybe the biggest thing is how much more relaxed I am (oh, and not being depressed.) I can roll with things that would've reduced me to tears when Em was a baby. The other big thing is confidence. I've done this before. I'm a survivor :) Confidence brings with it the gift of easing anxiety, which has allowed me to be present. To sink in and relish little moments--kissing impossibly soft cheeks, feeling the weight of a head on my shoulder (and the subsequent sliminess of spit-up...joke), watching Haven study her own hands with an enviable awe. 

I had hopes (foolish, foolish hopes) of getting an easy baby and hence having a less stressful experience......no such luck :) I got an adorable, colicky, crappy napper. (Though she does smile generously and has gotten happier as she's grown.) But if I had gotten an easy baby, I wouldn't have been able to see the ways in which I'd grown and transformed. I simply would've chalked it up to the new babe's temperament. And that is my silver lining.


Long Time, No See

My talented friend Amy took this beautiful photo
Where have you been?? Only kidding. I've decided to start blogging again. I had another kid, so I've got plenty of new material :) (That wasn't the reason for the second baby. Promise.) She's a wonderful little person, as is her almost-four-year-old sister. Two whole months of big sisterhood passed before Em, in a moment of desperation, cried, "I wish baby stayed in your tummy forever!" Pregnancy does feel eternal, but that would be taking it to a new level. Overall Em's been really sweet toward little Haven (though the shock of sharing her parents has manifested in other ways). Lots of heart-melting moments between the two of them. Like today when Em ran up to baby and said, "She's my girl!"

It's hard to know where to begin after over a year of blogging absence. (I guess I could begin by hoping that people still stumble across this blog from time to time...) I'll keep it simple and just share this printable designed to keep track of birthdays. My husband and I both come from large families and I've been spectacularly bad at remembering birthdays, so this was my attempt at a remedy. That's all for now. Wishing you an unseasonably warm February.


My List of Reverse Resolutions

After writing the post on reverse resolutions (could we call them 2013 appreciations?) I decided to actually give the exercise a go, and was happily surprised to fill a few pages in my journal. I counted small things, because our lives are constructed mostly of small moments that gain power and momentum over time. Here are some of the things on my list: 
-Moved apartments twice
-Started blogging again
-Organized a babysitting co-op
-Went on a 15-mile hike (just barely survived)
-Played hostess to lots of family & friends
-Read more books than years past
-Dated Glade
-Kept a gratitude notebook
-Listened to lots of Ted Talks
-Initiated some hard conversations 
-Gave gifts
-Attended two family reunions
-Created enjoyable rituals with Em 
(riding the town bus to Great Harvest for 
cinnamon bread)
-Tried to turn the reins of my life back over to God
-Made new friends
-Mothered with my whole heart 
(which does not at all resemble perfection)
-Kept trying

What did your list look like? It's not too late to make one. It's a nice way to honor what you've accomplished and tell 2013 goodbye.