07 January 2010

Tomorrow is Another Day

I yelled this morning, for really stupid reasons. I yelled loud and then I stormed into the kitchen and banged one of the kids' plastic Dora bowls so hard on our kitchen island that it broke.

I haven't posted about parenting issues for a while because, for the most part, all has been pretty quiet on the parenting front. There are a lot of reasons for this—two big ones being greater maturity on Maddie and Riley's part and greater general happiness on my part. It's been a nice change.

This morning, though, brought up a lot of unpleasant memories for me, taking me back to times not too long ago, times with more yelling from me and more irrationality from everyone. Nothing ever warrants the kind of behavior I exhibited this morning, and, frankly, what got me upset this morning was nothing more than typical three-year-old behavior, the kind that is frustrating and annoying, yes, but also part and parcel of this age. Quite simply, Maddie and Riley were more interested in putting stickers all over themselves and dancing around than they were in getting dressed and having breakfast, and they would not settle down, listen to what I was saying, and get on with the routine of the morning.

Nothing usual, nothing to get that upset about. There are days when our morning routine goes off without a hitch (rare), days when we get out the door more or less on time but not without some difficulty (the norm), and days like today where, for reasons I can't pinpoint, I just don't have the reserves to get us through the morning without blowing my top. On a normal day, Maddie and Riley do the kind of thing that got me upset today, but I manage not to get upset about it. Today—why today?—I just couldn't deal.

Morning routines are stressful for most of us, with kids or without. Having to be somewhere at a specific time in the morning is not easy. Every minute counts. I have a habit of getting the kids out of bed a few minutes later than is really wise, and I need to be better about that for all of our sakes. Having a bit of a time buffer will help me for sure.

I am not big on new year's resolutions, but one goal I do want to work towards is more calm, more compassion, and more kindness. When I have mornings like we did today, I feel awful, and the kids don't feel great, either. I know the usual techniques of stepping away, counting to ten, giving myself a break or a time out, and the like. What I'm wondering is if I'm alone in the swiftness with which my anger arrives. I will honestly feel fine fine fine, then suddenly, I'm yelling without the awareness or time to get myself out of the room to count to ten and cool my jets. If I don't even feel it coming, how can I manage it? How do I know when it's going to be one of those days when it's too much for me to take?


Melissa said...

I don't have answers, just empathy, because I feel that way too. Sometimes I have all the patience for the messing around, but other times - they can just push the buttons, you know?

carosgram said...

Don't be so hard on yourself. How are they going to learn to listen, get dressed and pay attention? You didn't slam either of them on the counter, just a stupid bowl. And maybe that got their attention. You don't react this way every day for every infraction so once in a while is just being human and may even be good for them to realize that their behavior has consequences. Thinking of you and wishing you the best

Sandi said...

I went out to lunch the other two with two women from work--one is my age with 2 children the same ages and a husband, the other is older with 2 children, one in college and one who graduated. She also has a husband.

They lose or have lost their shit every bit as much as I have and for just as many irrational reasons. It made me feel better.

JudithNYC said...

I agree that you should not be so hard on yourself but I know that a caring parent feels awful after losing control. I know I did and even now that my twins are 36 sometimes I remember one of those incidents and still cringe and feel guilty.

I know in my case my ability (or lack thereof) to deal with frustration had a lot to do with PMS.

Betty M said...

You are ceratinly not alone. I lose my shit frighteneningly regularly. Often with no warning. I'm trying to stop but its hard.

Julia said...

I don't know why, but I have much more of these episodes with my second than with my first. Perhaps it is the long term sleep deprivation? But I used to know when things were about to get to me, and now I suddenly find myself at the yelling point as well. Same exact scenarios. Then I say "I am the parent, you are the child" over and over to myself.

Then I think about wanting my children to control themselves. "That's too rough." "Don't push your sister in the bathtup with your feet, she'll fall under the water" "Don't yank your toy away, sit on the couch if you don't want her touching your things."

All of these ways of trying to help my kid not react in a snap-anger manner, and think things through. But I can't manage it either. I wish I had a mom around to recognize when things are heading downhill for me. :)

I think you are right about prevention being the key. For me too, an extra few minutes in the morning would likely do the trick. Recognizing that two kids playing with hard objects on a loud wood floor is great for about 20 minutes and then the loudness and hyperness is going to be too over-stimulating for me as the parent personally.

I do think though that being out-manned also has something to do with it. Two irrational people feeding off of each other is a lot more difficult to interrupt than just one. I hear at this older age, giving a kid a morning to-do chart is very helpful. Something they check off that has pictures on it.

Teacher Mommy said...

You are very much not alone. This single parenting thing is hard, and I only have to do it half the time. I can only feel for you, who is doing such a (generally-speaking) wonderful job of doing it all the time. But that instant anger? It's SO hard to step back. I find myself in that position far too often, and all I can do is apologize to them, explain why I was angry, assure them I love them, and then work on forgiving myself.

Which, really, is the hardest part.

Heather said...

I don't have kids, so I can't speak to those things -- they seem really difficult, though; I feel for you.

However, I too suffer from occasionally becoming totally overwhelmed by anger or what-have-you with seemingly no warning. What has worked for me (and really, really worked) is very simple meditation. I sit for 5 minutes a day and try to concentrate on my breath, in and out. While doing this, if other thoughts arise, I simply brush them aside and return to the breath. Keeping with the breath is difficult, but you just have to persist in going back to it when other thoughts come up (which they always will). After only a few days of doing this routine, I started to become more aware of my feelings before they got on top of me. I'm not sure what the connection is, or why this technique seems to work, but it has. Thought I'd mention it because your post really reminded me of how I can get sometimes -- much less often now, thankfully. Hope this helps.

albe said...

I've been there. In fact, when I lose my cool and yell (or, I hate to say it, even scream, letting out a primal scream at the world), sometimes I think back to you and your parenting posts just to reassure myself that it's normal, that other loving parents do this too. It feels horrible, though.

Yes, it comes on suddenly for me like you described. I work hard at keeping it under control, and usually walking away for a moment works, but those rare times it doesn't...I feel like the world's worst mom. But I think it's normal.

I'm just so, so glad people are talking about it, so that I know I'm not the only one.

Sweet Coalminer said...

I hope you don't beat yourself up for this. Kids need to see that adults have emotions too, and it makes me feel better for my outbursts with my two sweet kids, too. And I'm not a single parent.

You're a fantastic mother, and I look up to you, even though I've got one older than yours. Mornings are hard. Getting kids to do what you want is hard. It's ok to yell sometimes. And use it as a teaching moment. Or not.

Anonymous said...

The strange things I've noticed about myself when I'm having one of those moments is:

a) when I lose it, it's almost like I'm watching myself... knowing this is WRONG..and thinking "please stop that!".


b) As a single mom, I have to tell someone about my 'melt down'. Not sure why that is..I guess I always want to be reassured that it happens to everyone and I'm not a bad mom! Hmmm..maybe that's why you wrote this story!!

See? We're all ok!

Natika said...

My kids are now old enough that we all just blame my outburst on PMS.
People have minor breaking points. Be glad you're not one of those parents who strike their children. I would rather see a child tear up a coffee shop as opposed to a "Walmart mom" as I like to call them. I can't stand listening to those loud mom's. I heard one the other day that stated(loudly) "I'm gonna beat your ass if you don't shut up!" NICE! The little boy was about 4yrs old.

Sienna & Serena said...

Don't beat yourself up over it, we've all been there! My irrational behaviour occured this morning at 2 AM! Something about a 3 year old not listening at that time of day makes me lose my cool. Love your blog, you are an awesome mom!

cv said...

You know what an awful day I had yesterday, right? Well, I was determined to keep my cool with N in the evening. I held on and held on until some stupid last straw: when I put the blue toothpaste on her toothbrush and she immediately started to WHINE for the PINK toothpaste. I grabbed the toothbrush from her, washed it off, and squeezed a huge, ANGRY, glob of pink toothpaste onto the brush. Then I walked away, I knew I needed a few moments to regain composure... here I was PROUD of myself for not yelling...

When I returned to the bathroom a moment later, I found the poor kid in tears, choking on a mouthful of toothpaste suds from the enormous gob of toothpaste I'd thrown at her... It was awful. She needed new jammies and everything. I earned myself two mommy demerits.

My point: you're not alone.

Susan said...

Been there, done that...just yesterday in fact. I am coming to the realization that my big blowups have nothing to do with the immediate situation but the immediate situation is the fuse that ignites the blowup. I tend to push many of my feelings down and then one day something happens and it call comes out at once. And no, patience is not limitless, especially with toddlers.

Mommy, Esq. said...

Ned and Penny were having complete meltdowns one Saturday (at the same time, rare) and I finally yelled "enough already". My husband said from the kitchen, "that's not helping". You know what's also not helping - criticizing without a solution. Just a note that sometimes it can be hard with a partner if you aren't on the same page about your approach to discipline.

Tricia said...

I got really erratic because the hungry children helped themselves to big bowls of cereal right before dinner. I'm an idiot. We all are. What can we do except mark it as idiotic and move on?

Bobbie said...

How many hours are in a day? How many SECONDS did you spend being angry? When my boys were little I sometimes felt like a horrible mother, but then I rationalized that 99.999% of the time I was the best mother I could be.

Apologize, hug, move on.

Do you have some kind of a morning system in place? If you eat, get dressed, brush teeth, etc., you can read/play before you leave?

Crash Course Widow said...

I have to say that CV's comment made me guffaw out loud--LOUDLY--and tears burst into my eyes. Good tears, though. Damn, she made me feel so much better and so much more NORMAL. ;o)

Don't underestimate the grief in all this too, Snick. Our kids are about the same age, at about the same trajectory/timeline throughout widowhood too, and I absolutely lost my shit all the time when Anna was three. From just after the 2nd death anniversary (when Anna was almost 3) and right before her 3rd birthday and until she was 3 1/2, I really struggled. Toddlerhood was so challenging and exhausting, on top of single parenting and coping and trying to survive each day. Granted, I think you're in a more balanced state of grief than I was at that point--being a SAHM and isolated certainly made everything far worse for me--but even though you're feeling better grief-wise now than you have in years past, even though the twins are easier, and even though you're happier post-move, it doesn't mean that the grief is all gone. It's so subterranean and undefinable at almost-3 years out that it's hard to know what might be grief and what might not be.

I'm not saying that the outburst this morning was grief. You're a single parent, a full-time working professional, and human. You get tired, cranky, and irrational...and thank god for it. ;o) Helps the rest of us all feel normal too.

I don't have any good tips or suggestions for you, because I know I do the same things as you do and I'm at just as much of a loss as you are. And that's with one kid, who's a bit older, and me as a farther-our young widow. But hang in there. I've always appreciated the advice that it's not THAT you yell that's important so much as WHAT you yell.


Sadia said...

I've been going through a yelling period, since my girls turned three. That morning routine ... ugh. I've found that putting the girls to sleep in their school clothes makes for a better day for all of us. Now the only things they need to accomplish in the morning are getting shoes and socks on, hair brushed and put up, drink milk, and get into the car. In a pinch, I can put them in the car still sleeping and do the rest when we arrive at daycare.

It is the age. We feel like we can expect them to be sensible, since they are so much of the time, but I suppose they're only three, after all.

Empathy all the way. I hear age 4 is better?

SupersammyG said...

don't have any answers either but hugs and I feel you. Getting out of the house this week has been a trial and I only have to get myself out. I look like I am going for a week with my book bag, my breast pump, my lunch and the random science teacher shit that I travel with. Today a plastic tub that I needed to drill holes in before first period. I don't know how I will ever get out of the house with all that shit and a baby next year!

Anonymous said...

When my kids were the age of yours, I had a wonderful husband, and I lost it with the kids all the time because the pressure of working full-time, and managing the house, and raising the kids, all at the same time, even with my husband's help was exhausting and overwhelming.
When I was first widowed 3 years ago, I still lost it a lot with the kids. I remember one horrible night when I had screamed at them, and I think had just scared them horribly. My kids are 4 years apart in age, a boy and a girl, and are generally not close to each other. When I saw that my young son had crawled into bed with his little sister, so they could hold and comfort each other, I felt AWFUL.

What I have noticed recently is that I, who no one would ever have called calm or patient, rarely loses it anymore. Some of it is that my children have grown and are more independent and more helpful. But I realize that a lot of it for me was hormonal. . . and I am slightly past all that now and it is easier.

I still get snippy with my high school son when I have an important meeting at work and he won't get his butt in gear so that I can drop him at school. But I no longer lose it. Some things about aging are positive!

Anonymous said...

I call these my "mean mommy moments." I can totally go from playful happy mom to losing my cool in 1 second. It usually means I haven't been taking time for myself.

I have 3.5 yr old boy-girl twins, so I feel your pain. It is awesome to watch them become so interested in everything in the world and to really play well by themselves, but now they are so absorbed in their play, they can't hear me. Or, they choose to not hear me. Or, whatever.

Weirdly, my out of control moments manifest not as yelling, but by holding one of them close to my face and whispering. It may sound less scary to you, but trust me, it is awful! I invade their personal space and it scares them just as much as if I'd yelled at them. It feels terrible.

I always apologize when I've lost my cool and once they are calm give myself a timeout on the steps.

I Know Toni said...

It must have been something about yesterday because I had a meltdown too! Not proud, but need to find some Vitamin D and a way to give myself a timeout.

Anonymous said...

You are not alone. I was the same with my first son, and I just had the one child and didn't even have to be anywhere at a given time in the morning (self-employment brings about a good measure of time flexibility). But I lost my shit often and it came up as suddenly as you describe. Forgive yourself. That it bothers you truly shows how much you care about your kids and about being the best mom you can be.

CV: Thank you so much for that toothpaste story!

NYCmom said...

I am also a single parent, who has to get two kids (9 & 6) out of the house in the morning. I often lost my cool with very simple things - things you mentioned. I did make a resolution to get them up 10 minutes earlier in the morning after the Christmas break. it has made a world of difference. It's only been one week and its only 10 minutes, but it has completely changed all of us and our morning ritual. Good luck!

Amber said...

You are definitely not alone. My anger arrives swiftly as well - my friends call me the most patient person they know, which I don't think is accurate. I think what happens is I bottle up my frustration for days on end and then just let it all out over one silly little thing, like a child who suddenly NEEDS a drink just as we are heading out the door. My kids laugh at me when I blow up at them which does not help, but is understandable as I must look like a crazy person to them. I am working on this by giving myself breaks and treats as I feel I need them. LOL

HUGS You are not alone. :)

Jennifer said...

Once when my husband was deployed to Iraq, my 3-y/o daughter wasn't walking to her room fast enough for me. This was after a night of dawdling at the dinner table, not eating her dinner, etc. My mother had died suddenly the previous year and with my husband in a war zone, I was not at my mental best.

As she was poking her way to her room, I put my hand on her back and told her to speed it up (hoping to give her a "push" and show her how to go faster). Well, she slipped and fell on the tile floor. My 6 y/o son was looking on in horror, which was bad enough, but when she looked up from the floor and said to me, "That's a mean, mean mommy!" through her tears, I knew I had crossed a line. I never put my hands on her again (she's 7 now) and I was so ashamed that it just tore me up for days. As I'm writing this, I'm crying, remembering how horrible it was.

My point is that we all lose it, but we need to figure out how to cope. We do the best we can as parents, which means some days are better than others. You have a lot on your plate and no one in the house to balance the parenting with. We've all been there with our "bad mommy moments" , and the best thing we can do is to take some deep breaths and move on.

Anonymous said...

For me I think that on days when I'm feeling like I am using tons of patience, and doing everything I should to give them warnings and respond to their randomness, and then at some point they're still not listening, and I just lose it and yell, unexpectedly, as you describe. I wish I knew how to prevent it! And as everyone said, seeing that Mommy has feelings and can get angry or impatient is normal. In addition to apologizing, I usually ask, "what should I have done instead of yelling?" so we can talk it through more and they can problem solve with me.

Aims said...

You're not alone. Most of the time, I feel like a failure as a mother. I yell way more often than I'd like. Though I have a husband, most of the time the real problem is stuff between us and as someone else pointed out, the kids ____ (arguing, fighting over a toy, etc.) is the fuse that sets things off.

Susan said...

Awn Snick, it happens to the best of us and your timing couldn't match up more with mine. I lost it this morning. The difference? I have teenagers versus three year olds. Similar - my guy was just acting his age. My anger was immediate and I saw the hurt in his eyes and it pained me. Mine are old enough that I can apologize but maybe yours are too. Mornings suck. I'm sorry they just do and it doesn't necessarily get easier as the kids get bigger. Getting teenagers just to get out of bed can be a hassle which shouldn't happen but it does. I feel you.....just knowing it doesn't happen often is a good thing. And acknowledging it. Your doing great.....

Carolina Girl said...

Thanks for posting this. My son is just over 2, and I can also have a short fuse. Hearing other moms talk openly and honestly about how rough parenting can be is really helpful to me. Glad to hear things are getting better. I'm looking forward to being moving on from the terrible 2s.

Allison said...

You're clearly not alone. We have all had our "mean mommy" moments. It's comforting to think it's normal, but the way we feel afterward is a testament to how wrong we know it is.


You're helping people, though, by writing about it. I remember when you posted awhile back about the trouble you were having with yelling and rage. I was going through the same thing with my two boys at that time -- and I have a loving, helpful husband! What's my excuse?? I still think of you when I feel that I'm approaching that dark place where the yelling starts and starts and does not stop.

Best of luck to you, to all of us.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Hugs from another short fuse mama.

Kristina said...

I have slammed the bowl, too. You are not alone with the quickness of your anger. For me it feels like my blood is boiling. It's a horrible feeling. Now it happens less frequently and the sole reason is that my kids are getting older (7 1/2, 5 1/2 and 1 - it might happen again as the baby gets older). Also, for me, it's a sure sign of PMS, which I feel terrible about and feel like I should be able to control, but it happens over and over again.

I'm in a two-parent family and look forward every day to when my husband walks in the door. You don't have that relief which add a very real extra strain.

From what I've read you are an awesome mom.

MamaShift said...

Got here through Amber's blog (and it's extremely comforting to read that Amber blows her fuse too).

Amber knows how much I have let episodes like this tear me up inside (I broke a bowl when my oldest was 2 or 3 and she remembers it). I couldn't ever seem to look at all the good parenting I was doing; only the bad stuck out.

I can tell you that having a child who ends up one of the most empathetic, loving children I know has helped give me new perspective. It helps me be a better mom to my little one when I see that occasional outbursts don't necessarily ruin anyone -- though I take care to explain. even when my oldest was still 2 I always took the time to explain triggers and give alternatives: Like, I would tell her, "I'm having a hard time today because we've been stuck in the house all day. Screaming isn't a good way to vent my frustration. I could have said..." Stuff like that. She ended up very emotionally intelligent even if sometimes I thought she was grasping only a few words.

We've talked about the bowl incident several times over the years. I think we finally put that one to rest a few years ago (she's almost 10). But it became easier for her to understand when she saw her sister behaving the same way she had behaved that day (whining and whining and whining for rice then saying I don't want that when I finally had it cooked and set before her -- I've also discovered over the years the reason for that kind of behavior).

Anyway, I enjoy your reading your blog. I had cancer last year and I totally got your early post about Crazy Sexy Cancer.

Sonia said...

Dear Snickollet,

Many parents struggle with this, so don't feel too badly. You would likely find Penelope Trunk's post on getting kids ready for school in the morning alone (she's divorced), and anger management, interesting:


(Or, Google Penelope Trunk blog and find her January 8th post on the topic.) Good luck!

Catherine said...

This really spoke to me because mornings are so hard for me too. I think it is a combo of knowing I need to get the girl to the bus at a certain time and I feel this great big clock ticking over my head. Secondly, it just sucks to never have someone to lean on EVER! Some days I'm just exhausted to the bone and I feel this exhaustion more in the morning.

I beat myself up because I want to be that kind of mom that wakes up an hour early and gets everything ready before the kids ever wake up. Coming to terms with the fact that I will never be this person would be a nice step in the direction of taking the pressure off.

Thank you for your honest writing, you are an amazing woman!