I was tired.
Bleary eyed, barely awake, the sun wasn’t even up yet. It was 5:22 AM and I could feel that I was already approaching the end of my rapidly fraying rope. The kids were in the living room, arguing over the TV. One wanted to watch Jake & The Neverland Pirates, the other wanted to watch Tom & Jerry. I was in no mood to referee that fight, so I told them to knock it off. The baby was clinging to my leg, whining for some milk. I was ready for the day to end and it had literally just begun.
The day before had been a bad day. I yelled more often than I’d have liked, let my anger and my abject need for control get the best of me several times over. After I put them to bed, I felt an immense amount of guilt. I didn’t want to feel like a bad mom, but shortly before bed, during a heated moment, Carl said, “you’re a bad mommy. You never let us do anything.” That comment, however immature and misguided it was, coming from the mouth of a mere 5 year old, stung. That one sentence played in my head over and over… “You’re a bad mommy”. It stayed with me the rest of the evening, and into the following morning, leaving me with a heavy, and, quite honestly, hurt heart.
Flash forward to the increasingly hectic morning we were embarking upon, and I reached into the refrigerator for the pancake mix after Carl requested pancakes for breakfast. The word “no” danced on my tongue- how many times have I told him? Cereal or a sandwich on school days. I don’t have time for pancakes. That’s too much work for a weekday morning. As I grasped the box of pancake mix, relenting to the pancakes moreso out of guilt from the debacle of the day before than anything else, I felt a searing pain travel through my badly knotted shoulders and neck. In that moment, that pain gave me perspective. That was physical pain due to the strain and tension of all of the unnecessary battles I’d been fighting as of late. Why do I need to control everything?, I thought to myself.
Simple. I don’t.
So, in that moment, I chose to give myself over to the power of yes.
This doesn’t mean cookies before dinner or playing tag in traffic. The rest of the day, I practiced saying yes. To 90% of their requests. Wanna color? Sure. Wanna pull out all the Legos, dump them out, and make castles all afternoon? Let’s do this. Wanna bounce in the bouncehouse? I’ll set it up now.
I found the less controlling I was, and the more laid back I became, the more laid back they became. It was such a welcome reprieve from the constant battle I felt I was fighting. I felt like every time I said anything, they countered me. Everything was a bartering tool or a bribe. Everything was forced. There was no cooperation, because I was being a dictator. And nobody wants to be controlled. They aren’t pawns, they are children.
I have been investing my attention and time almost exclusively into them lately, and it’s helping. They are listening more effectively, fighting less, and behaving better on the overall. I am giving them my entire self- at the end of the day, I am completely exhausted, but I feel good. I feel like we are making progress in the right direction. At the end of the day, I feel less like I’m completing a chore, and more like I’m being granted a privilege. And I am.
The pain in my neck and shoulders is gone. Oh, and the pain in my heart, too.