Holding It Together When You’re A Short-Tempered Parent
I never realized that I have a temper until I became a mother.
Sure, people bothered me. I’d been in arguments and even a few physical altercations, but even then I never truly lost my shit. Then I had children, and my dormant crazy bitch came bubbling to the surface.
It always catches me off-guard how quickly I go from zero to pissed off over seemingly minor infractions. It’s just that when I am in a state of perpetual exhaustion, small things are actually really big things. I don’t want to get mad at my child for splashing toothpaste water all over the bathroom mirror for the hundredth time after I reminded him repeatedly not to. I want to channel my inner Gandhi and remain calm. The problem is, I literally just finished cleaning up a mess in the other room, I am 12 hours into my day, and a toddler is clinging to my leg. I’m fresh out of calm. Did Gandhi ever have to potty train another human being? I would guess no, which explains his level of Zen.
When I am running late and I find my son washing his hands with a banana or discover that my daughter has stripped herself naked for the 38th time today and is peeing on her baby dolls, or someone tracks oatmeal all over my freshly mopped floor and it’s too late for coffee, but still too early for wine…I lose it.
I own my crazy, but it’s ugly. Knowing that I’m always running on a short fuse means that I have to cut everyone around me some slack, myself included. Over time, I have developed some coping skills to help me keep my shit together when it feels like I’m about to explode.
This is an integral part of parenting when my patience is running low. I constantly have to check myself: Have I eaten? Do I need a Tylenol? A latte? Do I need to put my feet up for a few minutes? If I am tired, hungry, or generally stressed, those factors have nothing to do with my children, and I should take responsibility for fixing them.
Seeing My People as Actual Human Beings
Acknowledging that my children have legitimate needs and concerns is essential. Sure, it may not make sense to me that my 4-year-old is melting down because I opened his dresser drawer, and he wanted to do it. But in his tiny brain, this really is a big deal. I have to remind myself to take a step back and remember that he’s not pitching a fit over the drawer just to be an asshole; he’s a person with original thoughts and ideas about how the world should work. It is my job to help him learn to operate in an appropriate fashion, and yelling, “Why can’t I open the drawer for you?!” like a raving lunatic will not help him learn those lessons. Duh, right? But still really hard to remember when you’re in the moment.
In this stage of my life, I need to take medication in order to be a calm parent. I just do. And that is OK, because parenting is fucking hard and sometimes it’s better to be medicated than pissed off all the time. Just ask my family.
Taking Breaks Is Vital. Do You Hear Me? VITAL.
I still have pangs of guilt from time to time, because why can’t I just be the kind of mom who loves being with her children all day, every day, from now until they all leave the nest and I sob uncontrollably? But I’m simply not that person. This goes back to self-awareness; I know my limits, and I try not to exceed them. When my limits are met, I find a way to take a break. When I ignore the signs, my terrible temper comes roaring back.
Forgiving Myself and My Children
This is what keeps me from sinking into the depths of despair. When I screw up, I apologize. I use my mistakes as evidence of my own flawed humanity, and I hope that my children learn something from my honesty. I don’t claim to be a perfect person, but I do know that despite my imperfections I am a damn good mother.
It’s not impossible to be a good parent if you have a short fuse. Just try to keep your crazy under wraps until you can channel it properly.
Like directly into a bottle of wine.