This morning I’m going to attempt to write my way out of guilt.
First off, I got up late. Too late to commit to writing words before getting ready for the school-run – and that’s okay. I’d migraine like symptoms since yesterday evening, and despite attempting to go to sleep from 9pm, it took a good three hours before I actually managed to drift off, and even then not for long.
So I’d reasoned with myself that it would be better to get an extra 30 minutes of shut-eye rather than attempting to write with a pounding headache.
Now, a while back I calculated that if we’re going to have a (mostly) stress-free morning, we need to get up by 07:20 at the latest. We have entirely not been doing this, and the last push to get out the door is filled with acrimony and frustration on all sides. G. gets into the shower about 2 minutes before we should ideally be getting the children dressed, and I start making my breakfast ’round about the same time.
We still get out on time. We still get to school on time, but it’s rushed and feels bad, for the sake of a groggy 10-15 minutes spent staring at a ceiling or a phone that’s not even helping us wake up that much anyway.
Today I didn’t get out of bed until 07:48. So things were even tighter than usual. Also there’s a storm. And it’s wet and windy out and I couldn’t hear the children properly on the walk and they couldn’t hear me and we were all feeling pretty cranky and miserable.
And there were puddles. And lots of admonishments to not walk through said puddles. We did pretty well up until the last swimming pool of a puddle right before the school door.
“Don’t walk through the puddle,” says me. “It’s a big one, go around.”
But the wind and dawdling and general five-year-old lack of paying attention meant that Twin2 waded straight through the middle of it. Not even turning back when he realised he was in it. Not even picking up his feet in order to minimise wetness. Just slouched he way through as though it were a bunch of dry Autumn leaves.
I shouted. And then I doubled down with the “I told yous.” And he was white-faced and quiet and it wasn’t intentional and it had just been “a morning” anyway.
So now I kind of feel shitty. Because he had wet feet and I made him take off his shoes to dry out and I think that made him feel a bit self-conscious and he’s a pretty self-conscious sort of a child to begin with, so I didn’t help matters.
I apologised. I apologised within 5 seconds of my shout and my rant, and the child said “That’s okay, Mummy.” because he’s a lovely little creature and because he knows the social scripts. But all the same I could tell I’d hurt his feelings and I feel like a bit of an abuser. No, I know it’s not the same, and intentions do matter, but actions matter too! And what good does my “sorry for shouting” really do if I don’t work on changing my behaviours?
It’s hard, because it doesn’t feel like there’s a whole lot of time between the trigger and the reaction at times like this. At least, I struggle to find the gap within which I can catch myself and say “Hey, no. No need to shout here. Breathe and react calmly.”
I think one thing that can help give that space is to not be wound up to 11 (out of 10) by the time “crisis” situations occur. I know, crisis may sound melodramatic, but I’d set up my whole system to be in crisis by the time we even got to that stupid puddle this morning. By flying around and feeling frustrated and overwhelmed before we even left the house, my brain was already primed to be looking for enemies to attack.
And when he waded through that silly insignificant (in the grand scheme of things) puddle, my hyper-alert soldier-brain decided my son was part of an attack and it attacked back.
So, yeah. I’m going to move on. And he’s going to move on. And life will go on – but I feel like ignoring this morning would be asking for repeats of similar interactions and it’s not the way I want to spend their young years and mornings. And while there’s no cut and dry solution, there were mitigating factors, and I can work on those. I can remember the rule that I already know – mornings will be stressful if I’m not out of bed by 07:20. And that will be a first step to allowing me to breathe and hopefully catch myself before I go into full-on attack mode.
And I can keep talking and listening to my family; those wonderful creatures who have to inhabit the same space as me. And try not to hurt them.