My brother and I have often discussed the way our mom sleeps. She mainly sleeps on her back, often with her arms folded gently across her chest. Face up, hair is typically in place. She literally sleeps beautifully. Who sleeps like that? She and Sleeping Beauty, and that’s it. I know exactly how she looks when she sleeps because I have spent so many, many nights going to her bedside to wake her up. Whether I wet the bed as a child or was having one of those “Mom I’m so awake I could run a marathon” nights which, happened often. As I got older, I’d wake her up for varied, relatively unnecessary reasons but no matter. Night, after night, founded reason or not, my mom simply opened her eyes, raised slightly off the bed and asked, “What’s wrong?” No grumble, no fuss. She simply rose to meet my needs.
While thinking about this post, I realized that I don’t have many working memories of my mother ever responding to me in a negative way. Sure, she was highly pissed when I intentionally broke curfew, or when she busted me for drinking in high school. That time when I snuck a boy into my room well after curfew wasn’t pleasant either. Clearly she was stern and parented me when I needed it. She was going to ensure I was a tall, straight but flexible limb no matter what. But in the day-to-day, I don’t ever remember her being exasperated with me. Despite the fact that my brother and I put a rubber band on the kitchen sink sprayer handle which sprayed her in the face when she turned on the sink. More than once. No yelling, no fuss. Laughter, yes, but no fuss. The multiple times I woke her up needlessly during the night. No fuss. Despite the fact that I crashed my father’s Audi into a neighbor’s garage door. She wasn’t happy of course but she didn’t make it worse by making me feel worse. So what’s with me lately?
I have tragically made a realization that my response to my children lately has been one of exasperation. Spilled milk has gotten a response equivalent to a house fire. A stained shirt has received a lecture of epic proportions. I can’t even comprehend my response to the toothpaste cap that fell down a sink drain. I don’t yell, but I’m not exactly kind or loving. Come to me at night and see what happens. Of course, my answer will always be yes, but don’t expect it to be pretty. What the hell is up with this?
This is not the line of parenting that I stem from. I stem from laughter and flexibility. I stem from supportive and nurturing. Not exasperation. The most important component to all of this is that my kids are not exasperating! Hardly the case. The laughter alone that comes from my kids when they are together is infectious. It can fill my house. It should fill my heart, too if I had one lately. They get along, they are kind to each other, and they genuinely love being together. So why the hell am I being so jerky when one of them lines my window sill with chia seeds? As my patient and kind husband reminds me, “If chia seeds are our biggest problem, we are good.”
The other day, Audrey accidentally spilled her milk at the breakfast table. I had just sat down to eat my breakfast. “Seriously?” (with major inflection of exasperation), was my response to my precious 7-year-old daughter. Now, I usually wake up hungry so breakfast is really important to me, but seriously? Was that even anywhere nearly close to an appropriate response? Come on Melanie, the child reached for her napkin and knocked over her cup but you are acting as though she stabbed her bother with a fork! I took some time that day to reflect on my current parenting behavior and I had a major revelation. Hold tight, I’m going to share all of this with you!
I thought about my mom and the way she responded to me in day-to-day life. I know I spilled milk. I know I stained clothes. I know I broke the rules but never did my mom ever make me feel like an inconvenience. I never felt like I burdened her even though, looking back at the countless nights that I woke her up, I did. To this very day, at 41 years old I can call on my mother for anything at any time and she’s there. Not a inkling that I’m bothering her.
I want my kids to feel the same way. I think the biggest parenting regret I could ever have would be to make my kids feel like they were inconveniencing me. Sure, life gets in the way. My personal business of my life and work gets crazy sometimes and it spills over in to my life as a parent and wife. Kids are clumsy, messy, and make mistakes. I happen to have kids that are loving, caring, and filled with joy. I always pray for the guidance to help me illuminate their sparks and never dull them. After all, it’s just sleep. It’s just clothes. It’s just All Bran. My kids are worth more than all of that.
So it came to me. I realized that I do have everything within me to change the way I had been operating lately. I had it all of the time I just needed some time to find the answer. I was exhibiting a behavior I was not happy about. I was making choices to parent in a way that was not healthy for me or my children. I realized exactly what it would take to make this very important change. My realization can be applied to just about any part of life that needs an adjustment. Are you ready? Are you ready for my huge, life-altering realization? Hold on…it’s a big one…
I was unhappy with the way I was responding to my children….
that I should….
STOP DOING IT.
That’s right folks. Stop that shit. Don’t do it anymore! Whatever it is that’s not working. Stop it. The next time one of my children accidentally holds the cereal box upside down and spills rice crispies on the floor, I will stop, take a breath, and show him the importance of the open top. After all, we’re not born knowing that bit of information. Have him help me clean up the mess, being loving and reassuring along the way. Instead of an absurdly exasperated “seriously?” remark, I will respond like a caring mother and not a total a**hole. Stop it.
I was unhappy in the direction I was going but realized I have the power to change that. I have the power to make things positive or not. It is within me to ensure that my kids never feel like they are burdening me. I can stop it. I can do better! Now, I may never sleep as beautifully as my mother but there is always hope! And the good news is that it’s never too late. I can make tomorrow better by stopping that stupid shit today.