I had intended to write this post nearly two weeks ago. I typed the title into the title line and saved the draft so I would remember what I wanted to write about. So a few weeks ago, I thought I wanted to write about how us moms out there in the MotherHood need to take care of ourselves and cut ourselves some slack. We need to enjoy a little break from all things Motherhood. Interestingly enough, I needed this post, personally, two days ago. However, the actual message I ended up with was pretty much the opposite message I had originally intended to write.
To start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start), I was stressed out this week. There were a variety of factors, including but not limited to: my husband heading out-of-town for training for a handful of days (not a long time in Navy terms but long enough to throw me off a bit), the Navy moved a dear friend away (again), I heard some really tough news about a friend’s health, and I had made commitments at my kids’ school that were a little bigger than I had anticipated. Plus, I had the general stresses when trying to be a mom, wife, friend, and human being.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was being affected by the stress because a few days ago I was told that my son’s kindergarten teacher needed to speak to me after school. She kindly explained that my little dude had hurt another kid in his class. (Note: when your neighbor is sitting “criss-cross applesauce” on the carpet during music, it’s not nice to try to squash his knees into the ground. You should probably keep your hands to yourself.) “Oh. Goodness. Well, thank you for letting me know and we will definitely talk about this more at home.” says Betsy, who now wants to cry a little bit. After talking to my son about his choices and my expectations for his behavior in the future, I thought I had it handled and went about my day. And then I went about my next day until about 10:30am when the phone rang. Oh, boy. He was at it again at school and this time had decided that pinching another child during music class would be a good idea. This time not only was I getting a phone call from the teacher, but he had been sent to “see the Problem Solvers” (a.k.a. “the Principals’ Office”). “Oh. Goodness. Again. Hmmm. That’s not good.” says Betsy, who now has quiver chin and tingling nose. Thankfully my little dude’s teacher is a sweet and gentle lady who may have been trained by Disney princesses in handling awkward, uncomfortable, and “tragic” motherhood moments. I didn’t burst into tears right then and there.
So, I had been off kilter and feeling frazzled, and then in my over-dramatic mind anyway, I was failing my son. Because, of course, it’s all my fault if he does something wrong, right?! Well, when I’m stressed out that’s pretty much the only logical answer. It must be because I haven’t taught him empathy enough (I read an article somewhere that empathy was the most telling sign that your child would be a contributing member of society, so now I have a mean kid who will become a bully and that will lead him to juvenile delinquency…. he’s pretty much straight on the road to prison) and I haven’t given him enough attention during the last week while his Dad (his buddy of all buddies) was out on the aircraft carrier (risking his life by landing a big giant airplane on a small bouncing boat in the middle of a big deep ocean for the sake of our country’s freedom). Do you see how a little bit of frazzle can up my drama-meter?! Let’s keep going, because I surely didn’t stop there. It’s my fault because I haven’t followed-through on absolutely every single warning I gave him, and I haven’t taught him self-control because sometimes I lose my patience which makes me use my “shouting voice,” and probably it’s all my fault because he’s a middle child and middle children are usually the ones that feel neglected, so “way to go”me for having a sister before him and a brother after him. It’s all my fault. I am the world’s worst mother. Ever.
I pretty much sent that all in an email to my husband. Lucky guy. I’m sure he was thrilled to read it. Luckily for me, I was also able to call my sister and tell her all of my frazzled thoughts too. My husband (via email) and my sister(via phone), both of whom were apparently not frazzled, but very logical, reminded me that kids are their own persons and they make mistakes. They test limits just to see what will happen, and sometimes test limits knowing exactly what will happen but do it anyway. My son will cause problems and get himself into “pinches” (pun intended). My job is not to prevent him from making every single bad choice, but to make sure he learns from those choices. My job is to respond to the little offenses in a way that will motivate him to make better choices when faced with the big offenses.
In response to this potentially failing Mama moment, I realized that while I need to maintain some “me” time, I also need to be more intentional in my Mama time. I had totally been coasting through some of the parts of motherhood that needed a little more effort. I had been focusing a lot of my time and energy on other people outside of my family, with good intentions but maybe to the detriment of my confidence in my ability to be the best Mama I can be. That’s where I needed the Mama Love. I needed to spend a day thinking about how much I love being a Mama, on the good days and on the bad days too.
So I busted out my poster board and made a behavior sticker chart. I put my phone away after school so I could hear more about his day and who he played with and how music class went. We picked out books we want to read together and made sure I had one-on-one time with him every day. Basically, I stopped being too busy, too frazzled, and too distracted to really love being a Mama.
So bringing this all back to needing some Mama Love…. I had anticipated writing about needing Mama Love by taking the opportunity to take off our Mama hats. But this week, I realized sometimes my Mama Love needs to come from taking off all the other hats I wear and putting that Mama hat squarely (or maybe on a jaunty little angle) on my head. While it won’t always be easy, but because I have gained some confidence this week, I will wear that cap with neither pressure on myself to create perfect kids nor fear that they will make poor choices. I clearly know: they will not be perfect and they will make very, very poor choices (particularly during music time).