There are a few things I'm having to repeat to myself: every mistake is an opportunity to model an apology in front of my girls, be the calm in their storm, be gentle with yourself as you do the best you can, every minute can begin a do-over. Does it sound like a pattern? I've been hard on myself and hard on those around me. It has become a cyclical guilt merry-go-round: I feel guilty for my misdirected anger, then my guilt makes me feel badly about myself, then my feelings of shame manifest as misdirected anger. Why is it we need to keep making the same mistakes, even as we know we're doing it?
I owe it to everyone, and especially myself, to nip feelings of anger in the bud and take a step back to see where they originate. Sometimes, they come from an egocentric place where I just feel tired, run-down and self-sacrificing after a long series of days mothering four girls. I need to remind myself that parenting all these girls, at these ages, is a lot of work on its own. Feeling tired and ignored and unappreciated is par for the course!
This isn't the first time I've misdirected my anger and acted out of a stubborn refusal to admit when I'm wrong. I anticipate it's not the last time, either. We are always learning, but dangit if I don't keep stumbling over the same stone as I walk this path. So what is there to do but make amends, forgive myself, be kind to myself, and make a renewed vow to be kind to others. Sometimes I need to make that vow a few times a day. Sometimes when a toddler is having a tantrum in the bath and flinging sudsy water all over my clothes and arching her head back into my jawbone, I want to act out my anger and yell, scaring her into ... submission, I guess? But I know that's not even going to work, or make anyone feel better. But oh, the self-control required to not yell is a mountain sometimes, isn't it?
So I see the toddler as struggling. She is often scared of her big feelings. If discipline is needed, I can dole it out. But when she is just tired, scared, anxious, or frustrated, I can help her. I can be her calm, I can direct her back to the present, I can slow her heartbeat with a hug. I am always happier when that's how the scenario unfolds, and she is, too. Now I just have to go about doing my best to do that each time, or at least most times. And when I don't? Well, I feel guilty, but on the flip side, that's just a great chance to model how to apologize, how to calm myself down and demonstrate how to own my words and actions.
Today went pretty well. I yelled a few times when I could have done something else. It was mostly out of an ego-bruising that turned into anger, anyway. But there were songs, there were cuddles, there were calm-downs and time-outs and consistent reminders to show love an respect to our sisters. They all went to bed early, made sleepy by the gray skies and rain, tucked in with hugs and kisses and promises to see them in the morning. Anew.