Have you ever had ones of those days where you just snapped for no real reason?? I’m talking something really small and insignificant happens and you just fly off the handle and totally lose your shit?? If you’re shaking your head no right now then I hate to tell you this, but you’re lying, and this likely isn’t the place for you!!!
I’m not too proud to admit it, but this has happened to me plenty of times. Whether it’s because I’m looking for something that I swear I just saw laying around 2 days ago, or trying to joke with my husband who’s simply not in the mood for my sarcasm, or planning something with meticulous expectation only to have it not go according to plan. The incident itself typically does not justify the erratic outburst that you deliver, as it’s often a build up of things that finally push you to the irrational explosion of every emotion you’ve been harbouring for the last god only knows how long, but in the moment it feels perfectly appropriate to flip your switch and fly off the handle.
I can say with certainty that I am getting better at rolling with these punches and not letting my emotions get the best of me, but it is definitely a work in progress for me and there is one story in particular that helped me change this.
It was our middle daughters grade 8 graduation and since all of our kids are 5 years apart its difficult to get them all together at the same time. I should also add in that I’m married to a man who absolutely despises getting his picture taken, which means unless I can get enough drinks in him to trick him into selfie time, chances are he’s going to avoid the camera at all costs.
Since we haven’t had a family photo done since our wedding in 2010 I was looking forward to this special occasion so we could have a picture of all of us together that was a little more up to date. Grad was in the summer of 2016 and my son was 9 at the time. He was in this really cute phase where it didn’t matter how hot it was outside, he was wearing running shoes with his socks hiked up to his knees! He didn’t care that he had a brand new pair of sandals, because in his opinion “I can’t run fast or play soccer in my sandals” and let’s face it, when you’re 9 you have to be able to run fast AND play soccer on a moments notice, and this kid was always prepared.
I have never really cared to much about what my kids wear. They pick their clothes, they wear what they want, because quite frankly, they’re the ones wearing them. But for this particular occasion I had asked my son if he could please bring his sandals home from school so that he could wear them for our picture at said graduation.
These sandals had become indoor shoes at school because, well let’s face it, you’re not allowed to run, or kick balls in the school hallways so they served their purpose for wearing inside.
I had reminded my son all week “Please remember to bring home your sandals before Friday.”
“Did your bring home your sandals?” “Remember your sandals tonight then please” and if you’re a mom of small kids you can imagine this going on for the entire week.
Friday rolls around and we are driving home from work to go get dressed and ready for our daughters special day when I turn to my son and say “Did you bring your sandals home”
He didn’t have to say another word, I was already losing my shit. I can’t remember what it was I said exactly but I know I made reference to “I asked you to do one thing”, “you had all week to remember”, and I guiltily admit, I’m pretty certain I said something along the lines of him being irresponsible and laid a slight guilt trip about our now un-frameworthy family picture.
He was crying at this point, and from the back seat I could hear his squeaky little voice pipe up and say sheepishly “Mom, can I just say something for just a minute without making you mad?”
“What” I snapped at him.
“I’m really sorry I didn’t remember, and I don’t want you to be mad at me, but……they’re just shoes”
My whole heart sank. My demeanour totally changed and I had officially been put in my place in the sweetest most innocent way possible from my then 9 year old.
“You’re right, Omigod I’m so sorry, you’re totally right,” I felt awful. I was not only letting my frustrations of the day take control over this conversation but my perception of what a nice family photo should look like was taking over my common sense and causing me to react like a freaking psychopath.
This situation has been a staple for many life sessions for not only me, but my kids and everyone I share this story with and there’s a couple important takeaways I learned from it.
Number 1, it doesn’t matter how old your kids are, or that you’re supposed to be the responsible adult in your relationship with them, when you listen to what your kids actually have to say you could really learn a thing or two. I am grateful I have always taught my kids to stand up for themselves. To question things that don’t make sense to them (respectfully of course) and that they can talk to me no matter how mad, upset, or irrational they think I might be. I know it must have taken an incredible amount of courage for my son to make his point to me and I was certain to apologize as well as praise him for speaking up and helping me see from a different perspective.
Number 2, stop trying to fit in to a mould of what your life should look like. This is a big one since a lot of my frustration about this situation is how our family photo would look. I am embarrassed that that was such a priority to me, as if how our family looked on the outside would reflect how happy we were on the inside, and seriously, looking back, those pictures of his socks hiked up his skinny legs totally make me smile now, I should know better then to get caught up in creating a highlight reel, but it’s a trap we all fall into from time to time.
A year or two later my son came home from school on Halloween mad as hornet that his costume sucked. Keep in mind, he picked out his own costume literally the night previous and was super happy with what he had chosen, but after wearing it to school and seeing all his friends costumes he had come to the conclusion that his costume was no longer good enough and he was bummed right out. We were expected to be at a friends house 45 min before this bomb got dropped on me and in my opinion, shopping for a new costume was not an option. I suggested we put red paint on his cape to make it look like blood and be scarier, he wasn’t having it. I offered to rip holes in it to look like he was slashed and then also adding a fake blood look. nope, not good enough. I was getting frustrated as the costume he HAD to have just 24 hours earlier was now considered total shit because of how he was comparing himself to his friends.
I explained to him that I am trying to offer solutions and all he wants to do is focus on the problem, so in frustration I threw it on the table that maybe we don’t even need to trick or treat.
He was getting upset and out of no where says to me “Mom, remember the story about the shoes?” Not knowing where he was going with this I curiously, and perhaps a little annoyingly replied, “Yep I do Max, what about it”? And to my surprise this kid hits me with “That is exactly what I’m doing right now, I’m making a big deal about this stupid costume when it doesn’t even matter anyway, its just a costume. I can still trick or treat and have fun with my friends and get lots of candy no matter what costume I wear.”
Fuck, this kid blows my mind sometimes.
It had been 2 years and the lesson of the shoes was still teaching us both.
I was so proud that he was able to get to this realization on his own, and that my response to my overreaction years prior was something he too could learn from, and that’s what brings me to lesson number 3. Choose your battles wisely and own up to when you don’t.
I’m not too proud to admit when I am wrong (anymore) and I’m certainly not too proud to learn from my kids. Just because I’m the mom doesn’t mean I am smarter or better then my kids. My job is to teach them how to survive in this world, how to be strong and independent and make sure they are fed and loved, but when it comes to life lessons, we are all just kind of leading each other. To me, choosing your battles doesn’t mean never getting mad, I mean let’s face it, they may be smart, and cute as hell, but they will still test your patience like no other, It’s kind of their job. But what it does mean is that a little dose of humility and a lot of love can really go a long way in circumstances when you might have reacted before thinking.
That’s the beauty of being human really, is knowing you will fuck up, and acknowledging when you do so you can learn from it.
Life get’s hard sometimes and you can feel like you are at the end of your rope, but remember this story the next time you’re ready to put your gloves on and throw down. Is the argument worth it? It this what you’re really mad at? Or at the end of the day, when you take a step back and look at the situation as a whole do you realize that maybe, just maybe, they’re just shoes??