"That's it! I give up! I must have been crazy to think I could do this!"
I would have liked to blame my ranting and raving on pms -- but the truth is I was having was a grown up temper tantrum. I've been under a lot of pressure lately -- scrambling through the final weeks of the fall semester, traveling for a big work event, and nursing a writer's block so big it could double as a dining room table. All I needed was just one more hour to figure out an ending to close out an essay I was writing for the holiday season. But my children, who were understandably tired of sharing mom with work demands and school assignments during a normal week, were not going to give me up that easily over the Thanksgiving weekend.
I should have known better. I had plopped my laptop in the middle of the family room floor, surrounded by distractions. Of course I was setting myself up for the frustration of not completing the task at hand and causing a major guilt trip that I wasn't spending enough time with my kids.
What had really triggered my childish outburst weren't my children's demands, but a classic case of setting unrealistic expectations. Knowing this just made me feel worst. I marched off to the bedroom with the intent of hopping in the shower, but instead I sat on my bed, crying and feeling sorry for myself. I was tired, overwhelmed, and feeling like I was failing everyone -- my husband, my family, myself.
It was then a wise little sage -- my daughter -- walked into the room and, sitting next to me, wrapped her arm around my shoulder. "There mom, it's ok," she said. "You can't quit now, you always say we should never quit. Your dream is to write, you can't stop now. Get in that shower and say over and over to yourself, 'perseverance, perseverance, perseverance.'" Turns out she had learned this impressive word on an episode of The Suite Life of Zak and Cody. The Disney Channel really is educational tv. Go figure.
I did take my shower, but I didn't concentrate on the mantra suggested. Instead I thought to myself that I must be doing something right to have my eight-year old give her mother such support, encouragement, and sound advice. Sometimes we try to protect our children so much from the challenges life brings. We try to make everything perfect for them, spend every second of our time attending to their needs, never thinking we're doing enough but knowing it's the best we can do. We don't want them to see us, their parents, at our weakest moments, when we're most vulnerable. We don't want them to worry, don't want them to hurt. Yet these are the times they need to see us, when we're stripped of the personas we wear day-to-day and reveal the true human beings that we are. On good days or bad, they see us for who we are and even love us for it, as we do them.
I came out cleansed. Instead of booting up the laptop, I chose instead a challenging game of Scooby Doo with my five-year old son while my daughter opted to sketch. The essay got written later that evening. And I made it through the rest of the day without ever needing another time-out.