Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Does your child's caregiver do it better?

Today was a productive day, but a bit at the expense of attention paid to Seth. Claire puttered along around me while I tidied and cleaned; the kitchen, the living room, I cleaned the bathroom and dealt with renovation mess that has spilled into our living space. Eventually Claire went down for a nap and I even finally cleaned off a shelf and pile of toys that were covered in drywall dust. All the while Seth watched tv, only switching it up for video games at some point along the way. (In my defense, we did have enjoyable pb&j sandwiches on the sunny deck for lunch.) After lunch Claire apparently grabbed her blanket and joined him in front of the telly, I found her asleep in the chair when I realized it was naptime.

Midafternoon, feeling a little guilty about his lack of attention and a bit exhausted from my cleaning, I figured the least I could do would be to join him on the couch for a bit, which he really did appreciate as he showed me that Little Big Planet has levels built to be like Mario world. (Have I ever mentioned just how creatively awesome Little Big Planet is? There are the main game levels, and then trillions of levels built by other players all over the world. Truly amazing, but I digress.) As we chatted, he was enjoying the snuggle and said "You're the best mommy I ever had"... wait for it... "even when you yell at me". To which I felt the need to defend myself, "Well, thank you Seth! I love you too... you know I only yell when you guys aren't listening to me and I want you to do what I'm asking you to do, right?".

'Cause that makes more sense than the yelling for no reason yelling. 

"You know I love you all the time right?" I sounded like a public service ad against abusive boyfriends, the kinds that suck up when not yelling. To which Seth happily said "I know!"

Good, he knows I love him even when I suck.

"Joanne doesn't yell at her kids when they aren't listening."


Joanne is our babysitter. Seth and Claire go there two days a week. We love her. I can believe that she probably really does never yell. She takes care of children because she just oozes love for them. And it's not a sign of a lack of discipline, somehow, she even gets them to listen too.

I know the tricks. I know how to get down to their level, speak to them from near instead of at them from afar, work on empathy and teach them how to reason how other people feel. I can talk the talk. In public, I'm generally not the one to lose control. I don't panic in stores, I don't lose it when my children are melting down on me.

But I generally don't take the kids in public when I'm tired. If I'm taking the whole crew somewhere alone, I generally try to time it so I, and they, are capable of being patient and well-behaved. I try to make sure we're well fed and I'm also well coffee-d so as to be as reasonable as possible and generally prepared to be 'public-worthy'. I'm pretty good at recognizing when I'm asking too much, at being patient when one of them misbehaves because they need a nap and I've just kept them out too long.

It's those moments at home, more frequently lately in moments like now with this big pregnant belly, when I feel tired or unprepared, when everyone's hungry and tired as well and I haven't planned supper and we need groceries. When I'm trying to get a project done, laundry done, or them off the tv and it's been raining for three days. Or Thane's had a long weekend and I forgot to plan any extra things to get his energy out. When we're late and trying to get out the door and someone has lost one shoe and someone else has no clean socks.

That's when I yell. That's when I forget all the count-to-10, take a deep breath goodness that I am well aware of, and yell instead.

Sometimes, when my house is really messy and disorganized and I feel like a bad role model, or a conversation like this happens and reminds me how frequently I lose my cool, and I'm hit point blank that there really are moms out there who are so much more patient and yell less than I, and I just wish I had that part of the mom gene. I would really like to have the 'quiet mom' gene. I hope the kids will remember someday all my good points, my really great mom points that I know I have, and not just remember the yelling crazy eyed Mom.

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