My standards are slipping.
Normally, before I even consider sitting down to do something ‘for myself’, I do a round of the house- putting everything in its place, sweeping the floors, hanging up washing… Right now, the pantry door is wide open, there is a lone green texta on the floor to my left accompanying a crumpled orange pipe cleaner, there is washing to be hung, floors to be mopped and vacuumed, dishes to be put away, clean clothes to be delivered to rooms and an array of items with no home cluttering up the kitchen. But I’m (almost) OK with it.
Dave has taken all the kids (including Eli’s best friend Chase who came over for a sleepover last night) to McDonalds and then for a drive to drop Chase off. The silence is eerie and odd. Just yesterday I was again overwhelmed by the general chaos and unpredictability that is raising two energetic and emotional pre-schoolers and a very curious and mobile infant, not quite able to last the distance to the end of the school year, even though it was mere hours away. Choosing to start toilet training AND eliminate nap time for Hudson in those last few days may not have been my brightest idea.
I’ve been devouring reading material about parenting in the last few months, having now finished ‘The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children‘ by Ross W Greene (PhD) and in the middle of ‘Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic‘ by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. There have been many lightbulb moments, and frustrating experiences of application of principles only to find they don’t magically solve every problem the first time, then more realisations of unrealistic expectations, and then moments that show things ARE actually changing and the messages are being received somehow.
Over dinner this week I was explaining to Eli the principle of ‘Red Zones’ and ‘Green Zones’ for emotional management. I talked about how when we go into the (fight or flight) Red Zone of anger and lose control of our emotions we do silly and hurtful things that we regret later, but if we can take a deep breath and stay in the Green Zone everyone will be a lot more happy and we can solve the problems together.
After bathtime that evening I was frantically trying to clean the playroom and asking Eli to help me numerous times to no avail. He ended up shutting the door and accidentally striking my knuckles and then closed the door on me so that he didn’t have to listen or participate. I didn’t take it well and began yelling at him to come back or he would lose the privilege of using the room tomorrow. I can’t even really remember what other threats were angrily issued until a small, calm voice asked me ‘Are you in the Red Zone right now, Mum?’ Dammit. Instantly, I began laughing and the fierce anger of a moment prior dissipated. Dave overheard the exchange from another room and the sounds of him chuckling away to himself carried through the walls.
We have had some more positive days this week, including one day where neither Eli or I lost it over anything and we both managed to have good humour and patience in response to every situation that came our way. At bedtime I was encouraging him (and myself) and he enthusiastically replied ‘We are the best people in the whole world, Mum!’ I think he may have inherited my propensity for heightened reaction based upon emotions somehow… When things are going well, I can’t even imagine ever have having struggled…. but look out when I’m wrestling with some kind of issue!
Looking back, it is easy to see progress and growth. Videos of only a year ago show the passage of time so keenly, the chubbiness and cute inflections now exchanged for tanned, lean bodies and an exponentially increased vocabulary. Emotionally, I have to check myself from looking for decline in responses and outlook and see instead where I am learning to process failure more quickly, coming to realisations about why Thursdays are usually such a hard day for me (all my ‘breakdowns’ seem to coincide with this particular day of the week) and identifying pressure points that often precede an outburst. My Gratitude Journal and subscription to feeds like Humans of New York work quickly now to bring me out of a slump of being overly internally focused and raise my eyes to the stories surrounding me.
Last night Alex and Monica came over with their kids, and Allie and her two joined the party too. Usually I would have attempted to prepare as much as possible before the festivities, often to the detriment of the level of peace in my household. This time I simply didn’t have the space to do that, after a chaotic morning, then out to prepare the curriculum for the kids gathering this Sunday and then grocery shopping for the fortnight after that. I had only just put away the last item when people started to arrive. Actually, having to rely on helping hands increased the enjoyment of the evening and I came to a happy realisation that I don’t need to have it as ‘together’ as I might think. The kids were hilarious in the snatches of overheard conversations and their hyperactive excitement at being together.
The house was completely upturned by the occasion, but I chose to see the chaos as evidence of a happy and hospitable home, rather than a failure to ‘keep it together’. The merry nature of doing messy life together just felt so ‘right’, as Dave and I were reflecting afterwards.
It is a big journey for me, but I’m learning to let go, see the good and celebrate the progress… and hopefully teaching my kids as we learn through the experience together.
Now, to fixing this mess that is still surrounding (and shouting at) me! Baby steps…