I try really hard, especially now as a single mom, to keep my patience in check when it comes to my kids. I really, really try hard not to yell at them, not to take my personal frustrations and stress out on them and to remember that they are just kids. Learning and messing up and challenging me and growing up are all in their job description. Just as teaching and forgiving and loving are in mine. But sometimes… sometimes I lose it. I used to brush it off as just ‘life’ when I was married and had them every single day. But now that I am single and have to hand them over to their dad a few days a month, not knowing if they will come home safely every time, I feel great guilt when I lose my cool. It resonates through me for days and last night… last night I sat in their room and cried.
One day a week their dad takes them to dinner. I don’t know what he does with them during those two hours but they come back, by schedule past their bedtime, as hyper as I ever see them. Uncontrollably hyper. I thought, as they got used to the schedule, they would have a calmer return but no.. they come back full of sugar, excited over empty promises he makes and chattering a million miles a minute about all of the things he is going to ‘get’ for them.
They chatter and yell over each other and never want to calm down and get ready for bed. I have learned over the years that having a dimly lit house, books on the bed to read and everything in order calms them the fastest. So I do that and I did that this last week too.
My well tested plans backfired however and my kids came home this time more rambunctious than normal. The older one and the middle one were screaming over each other telling me about some ‘huge surprise’ he has for them this weekend and my little one was crying hysterically because she was tired and just needed to go to bed.
I went to lay her down and get her ready to sleep and told the other two to simmer down. Well this just started a game of ‘chase me’ around the hallway. My little one cried harder at the sensory overload and my other two were impossible to stop.
After about an hour of fighting to get them to bed, I lost my patience. I could feel it happen in an instant, throwing all of my willpower to the floor and stomping on it like a deadly spider. I lost it. I could feel the heat rising to my face, my heart rate speeding up and my lungs filling with the air needed to successfully scream ‘GO TO BED’ over the noise of three overly stimulated children.
I scared them and then had three kids crying and yelling back at me. Chaos ensued and in the process, they were grounded for six years, lost all toys ever given to them and were banned from ever attending another event outside of this house… ever.
OK, maybe I was not that drastic. But close.
When my oldest- the last to finally settle in and sleep at 11pm – 3 hours past their return home – on a school night – I crumbled. Guilt ate at me from my core out and I could not believe that these little girls, who would be leaving for two days to his house – not the greatest place for them to be safe – were yelled at and threatened and screamed at by me. An adult who knows better.
Watching them sleep with my back against the wall, the tears streamed down my face. As I sunk to the floor the uncontrollable mixture of guilt, stress and exhaustion over the battle took over.
I sat in their room and cried.
And then my middle daughter stirred and whimpered out ‘Mama’.
I jumped to my feet, wiped my tears on the back of my hand and headed to her bedside.
“Mama, Mama… mamaaaaa.’
I sat next to her, put my arms around her, kissed her temple and soothed her. She turned over, wrapped her little hands that are still too small to be left unheld around my arm and pulled herself closer and settled back into sleep.
As I listened to her rhythmic breathing I let myself forgive myself for losing it with my kids. Because though I may have overreacted and impacted their evening in a negative way, they still always need mommy to make it better and I will always need them for the same.
Motherhood is hard. No matter how you slice it.
But it is amazing too.