The quality of that picture matches the quality of the night: rough. But the message of the picture matches, too: love. Love…and a little grace.
My kids completely unraveled me a few nights ago. First in the not-good-I’m-about-to-lose-it kind of way, and then in the OMG-I-couldn’t-possibly-love-them-more kind of way.
My husband was working late that night and I was going it alone with 2 kids who were being completely ridiculous.
They were struggling. They were tired. They weren’t listening.
They were starving. And they were complaining about every little thing.
I don’t like corn dogs.
Actually I do like corn dogs, but just not those.
I don’t want yogurt because I don’t want something cold to eat.
I meannn, Oh. My. God. We all know those days.
After a dinner that was anything but enjoyable, we went to take the dog out, and they lost a toy in a bush outside. It was dark out so I needed a flashlight to find it. Well, we had approximately 0 working flashlights in the garage so I managed to find a headlamp (ha) & then they both fell apart because of course they both wanted to wear it.
As I worked to unmelt the meltdowns our dog got loose…and did I mention it was dark outside?
I didn’t want my dog to get lost or hit by a car and I needed to really be able to search—quickly—for him. If you’re a parent you know that kids are never quick when you need them be. It’s kind of a like a law or something.
And since my kids had already been fussing & complaining & just generally ridiculous (kids are something), I put them in timeout in the garage so they would be still & in a safe spot while I looked for our dog. I knew they wouldn’t budge. I threw on the headlamp, ran around calling for him like a maniac, found him, drug him to the bushes so I could find their toy, found it, took a deep breath and ran back in the garage only to be faced with two kids absolutely crying their little eyes out.
And I do mean bawling.
They were terrified. Terrified because I’d left them sitting there while I went outside to search for our dog. Terrified because they were worried about me out there in the dark by myself. Terrified because they were worried about themselves in the garage all alone. Terrified because they were worried something had happened to our dog.
They were—in a word—a wreck.
My 6 year old half-asked and half-begged, “Can we still get a hug in timeout?”
My heart dropped. As low as it could possibly go.
In my hurry to try and find our dog before he got too far away, and in an effort to keep my kids somewhere safe & contained, I’d basically said “sit down, don’t move, I’ll be back” and ran out into the night. In their eyes.
But in my eyes I’d basically done the impossible—single-handedly. Found my dog, kept everyone safe, & found the toy that started the monumental downward spiral of the evening.
We did not see it the same way. Any of it.
“Can we still get a hug in timeout?”
That hit me so hard.
I ran over, scooped them up, and held them on the rough garage floor while they got it all out.
And let me tell you, that took awhile. They had a lot to get out.
Kids have big feelings. HUGE ones. Probably even bigger than ours as adults because the world hasn’t desensitized them to anything yet. And I love that about kids and honestly I hope they never become desensitized to any their feelings.
But sometimes in all their complete & total unreasonable-ness we forget that they are literally trying to learn how to navigate this great big world.
Heck, I’m the grown up and I’m still learning to navigate it. And sometimes I get overwhelmed, too. And sometimes I’m ridiculous.
Sometimes I can’t get decide what I want to eat. Sometimes nothing sounds good. Sometimes I’m too tired to make a decision on what I want to watch & we end up watching 2 hours of movie previews because I couldn’t pick one. Sometimes I get hangry and lash out for no reason. Sometimes I’m worn out and impatient when I shouldn’t be.
I’ll be the first to admit that I can be completely absurd sometimes, too. And you know what? I usually have grace with myself when I am. (and I certainly ask for grace from those around me. ahem, *looking at my husband because the hanger/tired struggle is all too real & he handles MY meltdowns with ease*)
The point is, when I’m out of wack, I give myself some grace.
So I can at least offer the same to my kids.
And no, I’m not excusing their less-than-stellar behavior. They got put in timeout and we didn’t end up having the movie night we’d planned. Honestly it was kind of a terrible night. And stressful for all of us.
But I didn’t withhold any amount of love as we worked through the insanity. I hugged them, I held them, and I let them cry it all out.
Then I threw them in the bed as fast as possible because boy did they need it. And so did I.
I made sure to end the night by snuggling and singing to them. They needed extra love. And honestly, I needed to give it.
Because the only thing that could make me feel better & save me from an epic guilt trip was giving them that extra love—to try and erase the shit show that we’d just stumbled our way through.
We all took a few deep breaths together and agreed to a fresh “restart” the next day.
As they each fell asleep, my older child said he was “just too exhausted” and my younger child said she was “actually not exhausted at all.”
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