We turned a little corner today. Who knows if it’s permanent, or if the change will stick, but today we shifted. Today my voice wasn’t raised. Today I kept it calm, and came up with a different way of doing things. Today I was the person I like to be. There were challenges, sure. Plenty of them, in fact. There were things the kids did that made me wobble perilously. Things that made me worried and frustrated. A fairly typical day in my house. But I didn’t do it. I didn’t shout.
There’s one thing I can put my finger on. One thing I have been doing in the lead up to today. And that’s being kind to myself – on the days that were nothing like today. On the days when my frustrations bubbled over. When the demands were too much to bear. When I had no resources available to me other than a loud warning roar, which I regretted as it flew out of my mouth – doing nothing good for anybody, apart from releasing my feelings of desperation and powerlessness. And shocking the kids (very briefly) into zipping it for a short time. But making no one (me included) feel very good about themselves.
For a few days on the trot in fact, repeatedly on some days, that roar made an unwelcome appearance – but I didn’t despair. I didn’t berate myself for being a big loser of a mother who yells. I noticed what I did. I noticed, and I went “huh – that was loud and angry.” I noticed that it made me feel sad and full of regret. I acknowledged that I felt powerless in that moment. I acknowledged that this was all I could come up with in that moment. That yes I was flawed. But yes, I was also suffering, and in need of some kindness and understanding. And given that I was on my own with the kids, I gave that to myself.
In all the mistakes I made, and in all the times I came up short by getting shouty – joining the melee rather than dealing with it – the one thing I got right was that. The one thing I did a good job at was putting a friendly arm round my own shoulder. Giving myself a reassuring squeeze, and telling myself that I understood. That I was doing my best. That, as I’m forever telling the kids, everyone makes mistakes.
And you know what? – I think that’s why we turned a corner today. I think that’s why, in the face of the very same nonsense I had been encountering for days, I found it in me to do different and frankly do a bit better. Not because I felt ashamed, and like I had to do better. Not because I was mortified and disgusted by my yelling. But because I’d looked out for myself. I’d consoled and comforted myself when it all fell apart. That’s why I felt ok to try something new today.
It’s going to go wrong again – I have no doubt. I’ve known myself and my kids long enough to know that before too long we will find ourselves trapped in a car together, or frenzied of a morning and engaged in a cycle of whinging (theirs) and frustration (mine) and it’ll bubble over. And even though I won’t want to, I’m likely to raise my voice, if only to be heard over their dissonant chorus. But I hope I’ll remember the corner we turned today. I hope I’ll remember that we can turn it again. I hope I can remember to speak kindly to my flawed and imperfect self, and encourage myself to get up, dust myself down and do it all again.