This was the trigger.
I could almost feel the cortisol start to surge. I took a breath, lowered my eyes and tried to compose myself.
“How do you know you don’t like it when you haven’t even tried it?”
As the words came out, I knew this was not worth starting but the complaining continued. It was then that my brain switched into battle mode – and I was going to win.
Spoiler alert: I did not.
As words flew back and forth, the volume escalated and my temper rose as my reptilian brain took control. I left my half eaten meal (with my husband, my other daughter and my mother-in-law silently watching the madness escalate) to drag my daughter away from the table and into the other room. And this is when it happened –
I lost control and smacked her backside.
Rather than admit I was wrong – something only a more rational thinking brain would allow – I continued to storm on, forcing my daughter back to the table still sobbing.
Looking around the silent table and feeling humiliated, my brain switched gears again.
Trying to justify my outburst, I started reasoning with my 4 year old and subvertly gain approval for my actions from the others at the table.
The incident passed, silently and miserably, and we all moved on with other things. Nothing was said by anyone to acknowledge what had happened.
As the surge of cortisol subdued, I felt exhausted and alone in my regret. It was time to take stock – why did this happen? Why did I throw a mommy tantrum over something so innocuous?
I looked back at the events of the day. With my mother-in-law in town, I had not made much time to work. And today even less than normal as I decided that I would cook an “amazing” dinner… that took me 3 hours… and was really an excuse for me procrastinate about work.
All the signs were there. I was frustrated because I didn’t make time to work. I had spent time and energy making a "delicious, nutritious meal" for my family. My daughter had been needing my attention since the moment she got home from school and I had even said to my husband when he got home that she was really pushing my buttons today.
All the signs were there – I just didn’t pay attention.
As with other events like this (yes, this was not the only one) I tried to see the lesson. What can I learn for next time?
Here are the things I could have done differently:
- Let go of my expectations: making a home cooked meal and the kids eating all of it did not need to be a priority today.
- Manage my time more effectively. I should have carved out even just an hour of work time to help me feel like I had made progress. There was time; I just didn’t make it a priority.
- Ask for help. Even though I had acknowledged to my husband that I had reached my threshold with my daughter, I did not outwardly come out and say, “I need help.”
- Stay present and aware of myself. I didn’t stay present and I was worried about what the adults at the table would think of me if I didn’t follow through on my threats. Rather than this, I could have had the presence of mind to acknowledge that things were not going well and taken myself out of the situation to cool down; that was certainly not going to happen as I sat at the table.
In the past, I would have beaten myself up over a situation like this, now I see it as a learning opportunity. What I am finding out about parenting is that even though we know our triggers and how we can avoid them or mitigate their effect, it takes constant reinforcement for the lessons to sink in. I’m proud of myself that I have become more aware of what is really behind my behavior and in general, I am good at not letting myself get out of control. But when I am out of control, it’s ok – not great, but ok - because it is reinforcing my growth and awareness as a person and a parent.
I’m amazed how much I have learned about myself since having children. They truly are the mirrors of our soul – all the good, the bad and the ugly. But I love that and I love that they force me out of my comfort zone and make me confront parts of myself that I have ignored in the past. What a chance to grow!
Image credit: Shutterstock via www.scarymommy.com