I had one of those moments yesterday. One of those moments I swore would never happen as a parent - not on my watch. (These are the things you truly believe before you have children). As Girlio awoke and refused to go back down after a mere 20 minutes of nap and a mere twenty minutes of my run - the one I'd been longing and planning for all morning. And I tried in vain to put her back down, sweat trickling down my face and onto Girlio's clean, freshly made bed. I begged. I cajoled. And then I lost it. Inappropriately. And in case you'd all like to know exactly how shitty I did - I wrenched her out of the crib, lugged her downstairs, crabbing loudly at her the whole way, and then I plunked her down on the ground, feeling the tension building and building. And then I sat down on the floor and yelled. Yes - at her. Not just, like in her direction, but at her. Months and months of building frustration about her sleep (rather lackthereof) and my lack of time and space to replenish my everdwindling inner-resources, amalgamated into something along the lines of "Why can't you fucking sleep already?!?! I hate it when you don't sleep!" And then, catching my bad self losing it, I slipped into the adjacent work room to try and collect myself, while my poor sweet, stubborn and steadfast sleep rejecter cried outside the door and I cried inside the door. So - not my finest hour as a mama.
I've said before that parenting has taken me to some pretty incredible highs and lows. Well, this is the dark side of parenting. If you are a parent you will do something like this. You will lose it. You might swear your brains out. You might lose it and scream at them like I did. You might smack them on the ass in the heat of the moment when you swore you'd never spank. (And in the interests of truth, I've done this once too, with Boy-o. I've never, not ever felt shittier in my life. You'll have to trust me on this one).
Anyone who is a parent who says that they haven't lost it with their kid(s) in a way they never thought they would or in a way they think is wrong - is either very new to the game, a saint, the owner of full-time childcare staff, a big fat liar or some combination thereof. Yes - if this is you - I'ma calling your ass out. I'm airing my dirty laundry here not because I dearly enjoy confessing that I'm an ass, but precisely because this "parenting-is-always-wondrous-and-joyous-and-my-children-are-a-gift-from-God-so-therefore-I-am-a zen-and-always-calm-parent-who-does-the-right-thing" act - it's not fucking helpful to anyone.
Our kids are a gift. (Of course they are). And we still lose it. Because, as I've said a million or so times, this shit is hard.
Now that the airing of dirty laundry is complete, the more constructive part of the conversation becomes, what happens after we lose our shit. When we parent problematically, when we break our kiddos trust (at least that's what it feels like to me), or scare them, (not to mention ourselves) with our innappropriate anger or frustration - how do we repair the damage to the relationship? And perhaps just as importantly, how do we move past that place of guilt that we effed up so royally and regain our mojo as parents? Those are the really hard questions, and ones I certainly don't pretend to have all the answers for.
With Girlio and I yesterday - I started with removing myself from the situation first, catching myself and my breathe, and then returning as quickly as I could. Then I grabbed her up in a hug and swayed with her for a good five minutes until we were both much calmer. And then I talked. I know she's only 18 months old. I know she doesn't take in everything. But I talked anyways. I talked about how sorry I was for losing it and yelling at her. I talked about how exhausted I am, and how I need breaks from her in order to be a good mama. I talked about loving her beyond measure. I talked about how much I need for her to start sleeping. I talked and talked. She listened, snuggled, breathed in my neck, chatted back (lots of "why? why?" her favourite phrase). She seemed to be content and chill and taking it all in.
But I don't know if this repaired the damage. I don't know the extent of the damage, or if she'll remember me screaming in her face later on (either literally or in a more internal, cellular sort of way). I can't promise it'll never happen again, though of course I'll try my best. And yes, I still feel guilty about it. But today is a new day, promising (along with fun adventures) the same frustrations and probably some new ones. And the guilt won't help me navigate those.
So one way or another, I gotta move past it and get on with the business of right now, hopefully armed with just a little bit more perspective than I had yesterday.