The other day a friend/fellow mom and I were talking and she proceeded to confess a very embarrassing situation which occurred where her three-year-old spoke his first swear word in front of his grandmother. Now of course this mom was mortified that her son had screamed profanity in front of her mother-in-law, but even more so because she in fact had inadvertently taught her son that very same word. A word that impulsively flew out of this mom’s mouth a few weeks prior upon coming across her child’s smeared feces on the kitchen wall. As I hugged my friend in camaraderie, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud and feel an overwhelming sense of relief. I knew at that moment that I was not the only mom with some “I totally lost my cool” moments. Deep down I knew these moments never made me a horrible mother but it never hurts to be reminded that they happen to the best of us.
As my daughter gets older, I am realizing many truths about being a parent. Here are three:
1) There will always be times when my children- God love them – really push my buttons.
2) Although “losing your cool” moments happen to all of us – learning to control my emotions in these situations will make me a better parent.
3) My children are always watching – good or bad – so in order to improve their behavior, I need to improve mine.
As I look back at a few moments over the past months that may disqualify me for that “mother of the year” award, I think to myself, “What could I have done differently?” “How could I have handled the situation in a way that models the behavior I wish to see in my daughter?”
Example: My daughter and I were making pancakes. I turned to get the last ingredient from the cupboard and my daughter – who was told to not touch anything until Mommy returned – had somehow flung the mixing bowl across the kitchen with pancake batter splattering just about everywhere in sight. Without even thinking I yelled at my little two-year-old, which resulted in her running out of the room crying. REWIND – Do I want my daughter to throw a screaming fit the next time she is frustrated with something? I can’t really expect a two-year-old not to touch things that I leave right in front of her. Messes happen. They can be cleaned up. Not the end of the world. What do I want to model for my daughter? Next time I will take a deep breath. I will say, “Honey, Mommy is upset because I don’t like messes and this is a very big mess. I know it was an accident. I love you very much. Let’s find some paper towel and clean it up together.”
My daughter is a little sponge and thank God for that because that is how she has learned to talk in complete sentences, brush her teeth, give the best hugs and kisses, and pretend to nurse and burp her dollies. On the other hand, that little girl is watching my every word so I want to be her best role model. For me that means less “losing it” moments no matter how human they are. That means having more patience in order to model healthy ways to handle frustration, anger, and disappointment that are a natural part of life.
I want to teach my daughter that it’s okay to be sad, mad, or hurt. There will be times when we try our best and things get messed up; times when our favorite toy gets broken or lost; times when we can’t have something we want right now; times when we have to do things we don’t want to do. But it’s okay. We can take a deep breath. We can say why we’re upset. We can take a “break” or say we need a little “space” to have a moment to ourselves. We can get a hug if that’s what we need. But it will be okay. This is what I want my daughter to learn and imitate from watching me. No better time than now to start.