Here's something interesting.
I did some crappy parenting tonight. Wait! Don't leave! That's not the interesting part!
So yeah, the Winemaker was out all evening. This is in the interest of Papa Sanity, which we are all in favor of. At least in theory. Until I'm home alone with the kids all evening. Then it occurs to us that Papa Sanity might be slightly less important the Mama Not Killing The Kids.
Dinner went okay. Dishes even went okay. The first melt-down was when Linden had to come in from playing outside, but could hear her brother on the trampoline at the neighbors. (There's more to that story, but the short version is, they're not both allowed over there at the same time, and it was his turn.) She was standing by me weeping. "Oak is having fun, and I'm not!" I pointed out that while SHE was over there bouncing on the trampoline, Oak had been doing dishes, so really, she still was coming out ahead, but the weeping continued.
I know I'm supposed to support my children in experiencing their big emotions. I do better at this with some emotions than others, and some days I just do better or worse at this in general. Today I was feeling rather impatient. Her heartbreak and sense of exclusion was real, but my grumpy interior voice said, "Whininess." So after a few minutes, I told her to take her shoes off, because obviously she was over tired and just needed to head to bed. I still maintain that this was truly part of the problem, but I also know that being sent to bed early is an absolutely horrifying concept to her. She refused to take off her shoes.
Pay attention here. I started to wrestle her shoes off her feet, but I stopped myself. I took a breath and (as) calmly (as I could) told her again to take them off.
"Please wait, Mama, I'm trying to calm myself down!" she replied.
I'll move on to an hour later. We're all inside, teeth are brushed, stories are chosen, and Oak suddenly decides to blow his nose onto Linden's nightshirt. Chaos ensues. Defiance. (His.) Tears (Hers.) Overreaction. (Mine, OF FREAKING COURSE.) Ten minutes later, I'm holding him forcibly in my lap in his newly torn-apart bedroom while she weeps under the blankets in her room. He laughs, a jeering sound, at her tears. The first time, that had egged on my overreaction. This time I concentrate really hard, and instead of crushing his bones in my fury, I deliberately relax my grip. I rest my cheek against his head. I take a huge, slow breath.
"Mama?" he says in a quiet, conversational voice. "Can you help me calm down?"
What do we see here?
First, that my kids even have the concept that when they're all wound up and upset, they have the right, the responsibility, and the plain ol' a-bility to calm down--that's amazing. How did they learn that? Are we doing something right? And they were able to articulate it too. I'm still kind of stunned. Both times, the other kid wasn't within ready ear-shot, so they both came up with it independently. Wow.
Next, that both kids moved to that place the INSTANT I took a step toward calming myself down. Downright freaky how aware they are of my emotional state. And very, very powerful to see what that allowed them to do.
If I had much left in me, I'd try to come up with a wise statement about how the crappy parenting moments are the ones I can learn from, the gift of imperfection, blah blah blah. But I still kind of wish I hadn't dumped his drawerful of t-shirts on the floor when he refused to get one out to loan his sister in lieu of the snotty one. And that I'd given her a hug instead of a threat when she was sad. But given that I suck (no, seriously) I guess I'll have to settle for at least having paid attention and noticed the good thing.