I’m a good Mom, and I need some help being the Mom I want to be.
“Let’s countdown to CALM down…5-4-3….” I sing.
Usually, this works, but not today.
“NO!” my daughter screams, interrupting my Daniel Tiger mantra.
I empathize with my three-year-old. Her world’s opening up and she wants to dive right in. She’s working hard learning how to dress, share her things, and manage her emotions. With every try, she wants to get it right the first time. She wants proof she’s capable.
(This sounds remarkably familiar.)
“Sweetheart, this one’s for me, okay? 5-4-3-2-1…(EXHALE).”
All the Feelings
I don’t know why counting isn’t working today. I wonder, “Have if I’ve offered help too soon? Maybe it feels like I’m dismissing her feelings?”
STOP. Stop the feelings. Maybe it’s not you, Emily. Maybe she’s just three. Pause and take charge of yourself.
Empathy is my parenting superpower, and, at times, it’s also my weakness.
The other day my daughter was sick and I was in a store being “That Mom.” I was racing through the aisles desperately searching for medicine and toting her on my back. I was rushing and explaining every single step of how we were going to fix it.
“Remember the last time your tummy hurt like this? First, we’ll find the medicine, then we’ll get some juice…yes, yes the kind that comes in a bottle so we can mix it up, and then, and then, and then…”
I could not stop my head, my mouth, or my body. People were staring and I was sweating.
(Oh, the stares. The staring often takes “it” to the next level for me.)
I want to “ramp up” more and scream at them. Of course, this will do nothing to help ease the situation.
And I know that’s not the Mom I want to be.
My “Mom Calm”
For a minute, I just stop talking and think on this:
“You’re the Mom, she’s the kid. You’re the Mom, she’s the kid.”
The lens of my perspective shifts from the wide angle (the calamity of the entire situation, my exhaustion, the stares) and tightens to just doing the right next thing for her that I can do.
I bring my energy down. I block her emotions and my own. I breathe and slow my pace.
I get myself safe so I can be safe for her. I remember that I need to help her now and that I can ask for my help later. Now that I’m calm, I can think clearly again and I know what to do. I deliver only the most important information for her to know in this moment, not the play-by-play of our solution.
“Sweetheart, I love you and you’re safe with me. I’ve got this. Maybe you’re feeling really scared right now because you’re not feeling well. I’m here for you and I know what to do. Moms have tricks for this kind of stuff. We’re a team and together we can do anything.”
She stops flailing and I feel her body ease.
I feel her calm melt into mine.
I Can Be Both
I can be a good Mom and need help.
I can be a good Mom and have hard moments.
Hard moments are a natural part of parenting, and having them doesn’t mean that I am any less a good parent. If I’m honest about the role I play, and if I learn and do better next time, then I’m doing my part.
I can have hard moments and I can recover them, for her and for me.
I’m a good Mom, and I have help.