There are a lot of good days when it comes to parenting. Fun days outside or lazy days spent snuggling on the couch. Today was not one of those days. Instead it stretched painfully, gray and dreary like the rain that fell all day. Because Monkey's school was closed, I'd lined up a three-hour Lego class for him while I worked and a trial gymnastics class for both kids in the afternoon. In my mind, the kids would be excited for the change of routine, I'd work efficiently while the kids were busy and we'd be happy and tired come bedtime.
Only the very last part of the statement came true. Thanks to Daylight Saving Time, Munchkin woke up before six and wouldn't go back to sleep. Eventually she woke Monkey up and they both banged around enough to ensure I wouldn't get another wink of shut-eye. Munchkin was unusually whiny and uncooperative about everything from her clothes to her breakfast. Monkey, originally enthused about learning new Lego-building tricks, whined about the fact that I wasn't going to stay at the Lego class and how it wasn't going to be any fun. Both kids bickered back and forth until finally I had it. I snapped at them, pointed out some of their horrible behavior and asked them to please stop yelling. Which, of course, was pretty much what I was doing. Not exactly setting a good example.
The kids apologized, I apologized, I walked Munchkin to school and Monkey was excited about the Lego class for about five minutes. Then the whining started again. When we arrived to his class, I suddenly noticed I'd left Monkey's snack on the kitchen counter and it dawned on me that it was just going to be that kind of day. Boy was it. Three hours later, Monkey insisted he hadn't enjoyed the Lego class. The kids needled each other on the way to the gym. Seconds before the trial class started, Monkey lost enthusiasm for it and five minutes later, Munchkin burst into tears. The kids did have fun, but again the bickering started in the car and continued all the way home while I stressed about finishing up my work.
As the afternoon continued, I got increasingly frustrated with them, but I knew yelling at two tired, grumpy kids was not going to help matters and that I was the one that had to reset the mood. I danced to music while serving dinner and I praised them for listening to their coaches at gymnastics. I had them time me while I did the dishes and asked them for help vacuuming the kitchen. They still picked at each other, they still were annoying, but considering they were still tired, (Did I mention there was also a full moon?) the evening went much better than the early parts of the day. When my husband arrived from his business trip, I wrapped up the kids' bath time, handed them over to him and had a glass of wine, alone, in peace.
As parents, we have to do some much during the day; teach the kids manners, foster independence, correct their English, remind them to speak Spanish, feed them healthy food, help them with homework, weave school lessons into their day and moral values into their meal time. All this while ensuring they get dressed, clean and out the door, or into a bathtub and ready for bed. I find it hard to be positive, to not get annoyed with kids' faulty logic and their preferences for tears over words. I don't mind the kids seeing my imperfections and my parenting flaws (how would my kids torture me as teenagers if I had no flaws?), but I was just as grumpy as them today and only slightly better behaved.
But at night, when the house is peaceful and the kids are asleep, that is when I make amends, as I did tonight. I went to their room, tucked in one child and then the other. I gave Monkey kisses and brushed away Munchkins hair. I whispered to them that I loved them and apologized for getting angry with them; for being critical and short with them, when I should have been calm and positive. Sometimes, especially when one of my kids is going through a rough stretch, I hope that they can feel the love I give them at night. That somehow their subconscious recognizes that even though I get visibly frustrated during the day, I've loved them every minute they've been on earth. I tell the kids I love them, I show them that I do, I hug them almost hourly, but I hope that my nighttime visits serve as a vaccine against the days I don't do parenting quite right.
When Monkey was born, my eldest sister said about parenting, "The days are long, but the years are short." I have thought about that through many a sleepless night and difficult day. I know that the kids will only let me hug them endlessly and tuck them in quietly for a few more years. Today was certainly a long day. Tomorrow we start over and we will all, I hope, have one of those good days that makes parenting pass like a blink of an eye.
What have you done to change a negative parenting day into a positive one? How do you make amends with your children? Post comments below.