In many ways I consider myself an ‘experienced’ mum – multiple kids, wrangling on my own, a mix of boys and girls, a chaotic combination of abilities and personalities… In other ways I know that I’m learning every single day – and some days the lesson is harsh.
Last night, Lil Miss didn’t want to eat dinner – her stomach was uncomfortable. She had been at a friends for the bulk of the day on Saturday, played hard outside all morning on Sunday, and trio and I went out in the afternoon. The boys were saying that my homemade ham-and-bean soup was good (better than my typical ham chowder), and the fresh buns I made were so good with the cheese and chive egg-wash. She turned up her nose and said she didn’t like it, and frequently wandered away from the table during dinner.
I’m not going to lie: the day had been rather frustrating. I was feeling short tempered and easily aggravated, and overwhelmed, and that everything is my fault – the messy yard, the cluttered garage, that we didn’t get to take pup to the park again, that I needed to go to the grocery store… *and* the to-do list was full of Spring Cleaning chores. Trio just wanted to play video games, watch The Flash and chat with their friends. But they’re all quick enough to complain that we “ran out” of Nutella. Or that they can’t unearth their skateboard from the garage pile. Or their sweatshirts don’t fit anymore. Or irritated because the van door isn’t opening. I’m the One who has to deal with it all.
Usually riding over these reactions is easy for me. I can understand and sympathize and rally the troops in a way that meets all our goals. This weekend I could not. I was sick and tired of being the One. She who will cook. Clean. Rally. Encourage. Mediate. Remind. Be patient. Coax. Shop. Remember *everything.*
I just didn’t have it in me this weekend.
So when Lil Miss refused my cheap-o Dinner-on-a-Dime, I had little wiggle room in me to cajole or insist or seek to understand. My heart was playing the tape that I’m not good enough to do it all. And is she objecting because our dinner wasn’t the usual roast & potatoes – it’s a close-to-the-poverty-line week for me, and my fear of making a bad career choice echoed in her refusal. I vaguely wondered how this might be better if I had a partner to help in these moments. My mind and heart was full of my own feelings and deficiencies and concerns and fears. I knew I was actively missing an opportunity to connect with her, but… well. I didn’t want to. I felt wrung out.
I managed not to yell (as I had already done that a few times in the last day or two), but just told her she could eat her dinner or leave the table for her room if she was that sick.
Ugh. I know.
She didn’t want to leave the table, she wanted to be around her family, and had no other ways to tell me that she was feeling ill. She reluctantly had a bite of delicious soup and promptly threw up all over the table – looking startled and unsure. My poor middle son nearly followed suit until I managed to encourage her to dash to the bathroom. I divided my time between cleaning up her mess, and comforting her in the bathroom. Pup certainly helped with cleaning the floor (ohmygawsh, it’s so gross when he does it, and yet so helpful too – totally mixed reaction from me!).
In the moments before she was sick, I could see she looked pale. I could see this was unusual behaviour from her. I knew there was another reaction I could choose, and yet I didn’t. She sweetly thanked me for taking care of her, and told me that I was right – that she was sick and should have been in her room.
She remained flat out on the couch, and after the 3rd time dashing up the hall, I gave her a pot to keep beside her. The boys and I tidied, and put out the garbage, and we all chilled on the couch watching The Flash until bedtime. My oldest and I enjoy Sunday Night tv together: typically The Walking Dead, but the season finale was last week. He really wanted to watch another program with me, and shoo his sister upstairs, but she was still so pukey, I couldn’t leave her be. He and I will watch it tonight.
I realized that I might have experience parenting small children, and I’m familiar with what that might feel like inside of me, as a mum and a person. I made space for their emotional development and needs in an easy way that didn’t trip many of my tapes or emotions. It’s harder, I’m finding, to parent teens and tweens – they look and sound like older people, and yet their emotions and insides are more similar to children. They are capable of judgement and derision and haughty stares in a way that is totally expected and normal for their development – and yet, creates strong reactions in me! I know they don’t have the life experience or the emotional maturity to understand how that might impact others. When I choose to connect and strive to understand and try to climb out of my own spiral, I find we navigate these challenges better together.
The tough lesson for me this weekend is to still trust my gut instinct – a blip is just that, and not a harbinger of a New World Order. Hm, and to trust that trio are still the same people as when they were smaller – loving, happy, zany, independent – but are also trying to figure out who else they can be.
We’re all trying to figure things out together.