It’s so tough to see, at times, when you are mothering competently. We may have had a positive, meaningful day, and then I’ll lose it for some reason and the whole period can feel tainted by this shadow of failure. I am getting better at choosing not to wallow in the mire of shame, but when you are already in the midst of a ‘grumpy fog’, this is difficult.
I’m a ‘catastrophiser’ at times, too. Dave mentioned that he would have to be away for two nights in a row, due to various commitments at school. I didn’t take it very well. Despite the fact that I manage to muddle through 8-9 hours by myself with the kids on the weekdays, somehow, the extra six hours of doing it solo seemed unmanageable. The fact that other mums seem to cope while mothering alone definitely didn’t help me to lift out of the funk. Somehow I have adopted this unhealthy mentality that if any other mother in the world can do something, I am weak if I cannot also do that thing.
Recently, I’ve been attempting to use my spare minutes a little more productively and I’ve been watching a variety of TED talks. I’m pretty sure that people in our Tribe Facebook group now mutter under their breath every time I share a new video with them! One talk entitled “The game that can give you 10 extra years of life” by game designer, Jane McGonigal, has potentially revolutionised my world.
Jane relates her story of suffering from a brain injury in which she was forced into complete bed rest for three months in order to let her body recover. She was unable to do anything that would trigger the symptoms which meant basically anything she had been engaging for pleasure or mental stimulation including reading, computer games, or emailing. In the first month she literally wanted to die, but then she came up with a game that would allow her to ‘slay’ the injury’s hold over her and improve her perspective. After finding the fog of depression and suicidal ideation lift within days, she went on to design an online game so that others could also participate and battle their particular demons.
Her game is called ‘SuperBetter‘ and it is incredible. You nominate the particular challenge that you are dealing with and select quests that will lead you along your way to the end goal. For me, I’m trying to be a ‘calm, patient and more resilient mother’. Every time you achieve a quest or activate a power up (something that helps you feel inspired or gives you a lift in mood) you level up in emotional, physical, mental or social resilience.
I played SuperBetter in the two days and it helped my perspective immensely. When I would have almost certainly cracked it at the kids, I was able to stop and get some clarity before heading down the slope. The ‘bad guys’ that I battled were ‘Grumpy Fog’ and ‘Rage Monster’, and just identifying them as entities outside of myself was constructive to my outlook. I certainly didn’t always win against the villains, but I was certainly more motivated to try.
On the second night, I admit it got a bit too much, after going the entire day without yelling or raising my voice, I was felled at the last hurdle- Bedtime.
I’d foolishly allowed the boys to play devices while I tried to get Ivy down, but despite the numerous warnings that the time was coming to an end, at the precise moment in which I attempted to get them to surrender the instruments, all hell broke loose. From that point on, Eli lost the use of his legs and doubled the decibels of his vocal chords. He was unable to perform any simple tasks such as climbing onto the toilet or brushing his teeth and I was obliged to drag him from room to room with us.
Somewhere in the saga, the tantrum awakened Ivy and I was not in the least impressed. A very quick bedtime story was read in an unintelligible monotone and a tuneless lullaby sung before a hasty exit from the room. While putting an unusually compliant Hudson to bed, I was treated to screaming in stereo from both Eli and Ivy. Eventually I was able to tackle an exceedingly overtired Eli and explain to him the depth and source of my irritation, while tersely reassuring him that I loved him, and he soon succumbed to a much needed slumber. Ivy soon followed suit, but I was disappointed that I had lost my battle against the overpowering Mr Fog.
Nevertheless, the fact of the game meant that I had a means in which to classify the battle, and in admitting the loss, I still managed to obtain mental resilience points. It may have also helped that I had five girls coming over for tea, cake and chats less than 15 minutes after the battle had ceased!
It is unrealistic to expect that a game can allow you to avoid any falls or failures, but I am appreciative of the gamification of an area of life that provides very little concrete affirmation or acknowledgement of the ‘wins’ that you can experience. I’m such a sucker for this stuff!
In other news, my semi-regular (by which I mean two total) jogs with the kids have hit a snag, with an epic triple swooping session by crazed magpies. First they went for Hudson who was utterly unaware of the two screeching birds less than a meter from his (helmeted) head, despite my maniacal gesturing as I ran shrieking towards him. Then I turned to see them descending on Eli, so I made a beeline for him. Finally, as I shouted at the boys to run towards home, they went for Hudson again and I clumsily managed to capsize the pram when I tried to dash towards him, only just catching it before it completely toppled over. So yeah, not really game to tempt the sky bird god, Horus, again in the near future….Unless I add exercise as a series of quests on SuperBetter, then my fierce competitiveness gene may be just powerful enough to override this superstitious fear!