After a two-week holiday Dan went back to work today. We all felt a bit depressed and it was up to me to put on a brave face for the girls. A morning at the gardens started out fine (apart from my three year-old, Charlotte, making a teary wish at the ‘Wishing Well’ that, ‘Daddy, please never, ever have to go to work again…’.
By the afternoon we’d all had enough. Sophie, my one year old, was toddling around with photographs of her Daddy and calling out his name with repetitive irritation (doing nothing for my delicate self-esteem). She’s normally a very content baby but she’d only had a half hour nap all day, after Charlotte woke her up by shouting to a fly, ‘GET OUT, NO! NOT IN HERE!!!’…).
Charlotte’s mood wasn’t helped by the golf-ball-sized lumps on her legs from being attacked by sand-flies the previous day. By 5pm I was on the telephone to Dan saying, ‘I’ve told the girls I’m going back to work and they are both going to day-care!’. I started to dream about spending a quiet hour photocopying or typing up an annual report…
In the midst of this I received a complementary e-mail on my parenting skills from a relative in the UK, basically saying I was a patient Mum. Well, I was blown away. It was so lovely to read something so positive about my parenting skills (as we parents rarely have anyone to give us a positive progress report – we just look at our successes or failings through the actions – or reactions – of our children). But, at the same time, I felt I really ought to write back and reassure her that the perception she had of me wasn’t always true.
So I typed a response something along the lines of:
We all shout at our children from time to time (and anyone who says they don’t is either lying or a saint) and when we do lose our cool our children learn some valuable lessons:
- Mummy and Daddy aren’t always perfect (though we try, to the point of exhaustion, to be so).
- When Mummy and Daddy do lose their cool they try to return themselves to normality through self-calming techniques (ha, ha!).
- They always apologize (or at least, we should if we want to lead by example and expect our children to apologize next time they misbehave).
On the ‘self-calming techniques’ (#2) I sometimes desperately want to ball my eyes out and wallow in self-pity (which I guess if done so in the ‘time-out’ of my own bedroom, away from my children, is okay from time to time – but often is not appropriate or convenient). So, when I’ve occasionally had a few tears in my eyes my dearest daughter, Charlotte, now says things like:
- ‘Deep breaths Mummy’ (which I’m always telling her), or;
- ‘Put on some happy music, Mummy’, to which I then try to lead by example and push away the tears to find my happiness again, or;
- ‘Mummy, don’t have a cigarette, do some yoga instead,’ (as unfortunately I have succumbed to the evil weed from time to time this year…). And unfortunately, to my own self-loathing, I don’t always manage the yoga.
Well, tomorrow is another day and I will try, as we all do, to be a positive, patient and understanding Mummy and, above all, lead by example (and make sure that the examples I set are good ones!). Good luck to all parents!