I will never claim to be the best Mommy ever but I am proud of the Mommy that I am. This week ended with a great example of just that. Daddy has been away quite a bit in the last month, which often means it makes for a difficult time with the girls and I. It's not that anything goes REALLY badly, but it's obvious that we get tired of each other long before Daddy comes home.
This time I had a particularly frustrating moment with Ellie. She wasn't listening to me about doing something really stupid like putting on her shoes. I asked her multiple times before I yelled at her. Then she got mad because I yelled for something stupid like putting on her shoes. Then I got mad. Then she got more mad. Then I got more mad.
There is never a good ending in arguments if each person is trying to win.
This time, though, Ellie pushed a particular button. Maybe because I knew she was right. And that can piss me off sometimes.
ELLIE: Mommy, why are you so mad at me? I didn't do anything!
MOMMY: Sometimes I feel like in order for you to hear me, I have to yell at you.
ELLIE: But I didn't do anything wrong!
MOMMY: Actions have consequences. When you don't listen to me when I ask nicely "Please put on your shoes" and you don't listen to me when I ask over and over again, then the consequence is Mommy yells.
ELLIE: No, Mommy. There is only ONE person who is responsible for the words that come out of YOUR mouth, and that person is YOU. Don't blame me for the words that YOU chose to say.
Like I said, no argument ends well when each person is trying to win.
The next day, after we had a bit of time to calm down, I tried another approach...
MOMMY: Can we talk?
MOMMY: Sometimes I think that I could be a better Mommy.
GIRLS: No, you're the best Mommy EVER.
MOMMY: Please let me talk and don't interrupt. Sometimes I think I don't handle things very well. Sometimes I get frustrated and yell and later I wish I could have handled things differently. On the other hand I think I'm a pretty good mommy because I know that when some mommies get upset, they hit, or spank or even say mean things to their kids like "Why are you so stupid?" I know those mommies love their kids but sometimes they get so frustrated that they don't know what else to do. I'm glad I'm not one of those mommies because I have never done any of those things to you.
GIRLS: (dead silence... sometimes a little bit of perspective takes a moment to soak in)
MOMMY: But we have to come up with a solution because I don't want to become that frustrated.
Our conversation continued. We took turns talking about our frustration and then took turns coming up with solutions. In the end we gave each other action items.
Mommy's action items:
1. When I'm really tired and know that my patience level is low, I need to tell the girls "I'm tired and grumpy" to give them a heads-up.
2. When I'm about to get really upset, hold up one finger in one hand and two in the other. This indicates that the girls have two choices. Option 1: Continue down this path and Mommy will get REALLY mad and no one will have any fun. Option 2: Change your path and we can go back to having fun.
Apparently this idea came from Mr. G, Ellie's P.E. teacher. I asked her what happens if she picks Option 1. She said "Oh, we did that once and will NEVER do it again. Do NOT pick Option 1!" Haha.
Girls' action items:
1. When they are doing something, try to ask themselves, "Will this upset Mommy?" and if the answer is yes, then decide "Do I still want to do this?"
2. If Mommy asks them to do something, and they want to do something else first, then they need to say something like "OK, Mommy, I'll put on my shoes after I put this toy away." This will give me a feeling of being heard and remove the need to repeat myself.
And since the conversation? Things have been much better. When I ask the girls to do something, they may not move any faster or slower than before, but at least I know they've heard me. It's made a HUGE difference.
But how does a parent truly know they're making a difference?
A few days later we went to Ellie's parent/teacher conference. She showed us her self-assessment. She had colored in all 5 stars for "attitude" and all 5 stars for "quality of work" but then erased one star from the "quality of work" rating. When we asked her why she did this, her response?
"Because I think that my work is really good and I try really hard to do a really good job. Sometimes I think it's perfect, but then I think that no matter how much I learn or how good I do, I can always learn something else and I can always do better."
Yes. I may not be a perfect mommy, but I must be doing something right.