This is probably one of the most important lessons that I try to keep in the forefront of my mind when things happen outside my control.
And as a mother of five, a lot of things happen outside of my control.
A couple of days ago, one child hurt another child’s feelings by vandalizing an important possession of the hurt child.
I dealt with it by expressing my disappointment at the impulsive act, reinforced the message to respect other people’s things, and consoled the offended party through lots of hugs and creative solutions to fix the damaged item.
Today we found more vandalism that we had missed when we first inspected the item. This caused more dismay. Again, I tried to console.
But this child soon became inconsolable.
This is when things get tricky as a parent.
What do I do? Do I continue to try to console? Do I add another consequence? Do I offer to replace the damaged item? Do I leave this child alone to sort it out on their own?
I am faced with these situations all day long. But I always have to look at the child in front of me. I have to take into account their age/development stage, their temperament, their physical state (tired? hungry? sick?), their emotional disposition as of late, and anything else worth noting i.e. busy schedules, bad news, stressful situations. Most times I take a few minutes to do this before I react. I do this so I can choose my words carefully and do my best to provide what they need to hear.
And other times, I lose my shit.
(Pardon my language but there really is no better word for it otherwise I’d use it.)
Today I lost my shit.
Instead of keeping it together and remaining present and breathing, and staying calm, and doing all the things I know I should be doing, I said all the wrong things. I was impatient and frustrated. My child yelled at me even more and other children yelled at them to stop yelling. It was crazy.
Looking back on the incident, I forgot to take into account my own status: exhausted from busy days, eating poorly, lack of exercise, and other stresses that I needed to sort out.
As I watched myself lose it, I finally stopped. I wanted to press the reset button so badly. I wanted to erase the insensitive and heartbreaking things that made them cry more. But I knew I couldn’t. All I could do was try to fix things. I stopped thinking about what just happened – the vandalism, the hysteria, the outbursts. I focused on what I could do now.
So I told them a story.
My children were all upset at this point, but they noticed a change in me. My voice was calm and my shoulders relaxed.
And then I told them another story and another one.
My stories were all about when things don’t go your way and how we always have a choice on how we react. I told them I chose badly today, but now I can choose again. It doesn’t matter how we act when things are going well. It matters how we act when things happen out of our control. And we will make mistakes and act in ways that we regret, but how do we let it go and move on?
I said that I am still trying to answer that question and I keep reminding myself that it’s always possible.
Later I looked at my child’s Book of Hours entry and she wrote this quote:
I can move on and let it go. – Mama
This is neither the first or last time I will lose my shit. But I will do my best to remember my own quote that my daughter chose to remember after all the ranting and raving…and also modify the quote from the Dalai Lama:
When you lose your shit, don’t lose the lesson.
If you are following my little self-reflection challenge for the next week, here is your fourth prompt, the fourth step in choosing a one word intention/theme for next year:
What pushes your buttons? What one sentence/affirmation can you use to bring you back to the present moment when a button is pushed? When are you afraid, jealous, envious, impatient, and angry? When are you peaceful, joyful, calm, and playful? How do you feel right now?