This One Trick Will Save Your Sanity (and Keep You From Regret) When Dealing With Your Kids
Sometimes I lose it.
And by lose it I mean might I yell. And possibly use a sarcastic tone. And basically do the exact opposite of what every parenting book or blog would tell me to do.
Because sometimes parenthood is just hard. And, unfortunately, all of the times I am just a human.
When the dust settles and I am my calm self again instead of my raving lunatic self, I wish for a time machine. I wish to go back and handle myself better. I wish I didn’t have to apologize and regret. Even though I know it’s good to let our kids know we aren’t perfect, I still always wish I could go back in time and keep my cool.
The thing is, if I had a time machine, I wouldn’t have to use it to undo my mistakes. I could use it to avoid making the mistakes in the first place.
Here is what I would do. When my blood pressure is on the rise and I can’t take it another minute, I’d take a deep breath and jump in that time machine and dial back to the past.
I’d travel back to that baby I brought home from the hospital. I’d soak in the perfection of those little eyes opening and looking up at me for the very first time. The feel of those tiny fingers curled around mine.
I’d travel back to that 2-year-old, clutching their blankie and cuddling onto my lap after a nap. I’d soak in the feel of their soft cheeks and the sweet, sleepy smell of their messy hair.
I’d travel back to that 5-year-old learning to ride a bike for the very first time, zipping away from me with such crazy confidence. Then riding back to me grinning with pride so excited to share the joy.
I’d travel back to that 8-year-old, breathlessly running in the house from the bus, ready to tell me every single thing about their day. So happy to back home with me, wanting to help me make dinner or cookies or have me push them outside on the swing even though they were long past being able to do it themselves.
No time machine? No problem. Just use your mind. Imagine yourself going back to those moments. What would you do when you arrived? I’m guessing your answer is the same as mine. Grab that baby, that toddler, that child and just love them right up. We would be so happy to see them again. We would cherish those sweet moments if we could live them again.
The child in front of us in those crazy moments is the same child we lovingly placed in the car seat on the way home from the hospital. And if we can see that sweet baby in that surly 10 year old in front of us, they become much easier to love. And much harder to yell at.
It doesn’t just work when we think of the good moments. The moments we thought we would never want to go back to are just as important.
We could travel back to the night that beautiful, precious baby cried all night and we were quite certain that lack of sleep would lead to our demise, either through death or through going stark raving crazy from walking the floor until our feet hurt.
We could travel back to the crazily dressed 2-year-old who would go boneless in Target, refusing to take another step unless we purchased that Ariel princess costume. I bet we can even hear the lispy voice insisting, “WANT IT NOW MOMMY!” and feel that sweat coming out from every pore of our body.
We could travel back to that 5-year-old refusing to eat anything that was not a donut or wear any clothing that was not his favorite cars shirt or refusing have their brushed or hair put into ponytails.
We could travel back to that 8 year old, suddenly full of sass and opinions and stubborn ideas.
We could travel back to the moments that we thought we could not live through and would not miss for one single second thank you very much sister. And you know what? I bet we would make the same moves when we arrived back that we would in the good moments. We’d grab that baby, that toddler, that child and just love them right up. We’d be happy to be back in those moments, to grab that little piece of the past, I know this to be true.
Now, let’s look again at that child in front of us right now. The one that isn’t listening. The one that is refusing to do the thing. The one that is the fighter or the hitter or the messer. The one that is testing our patience beyond measure.
Pretend we just walked out of a time machine. We are not in this moment for the first time. We have this moment BACK. It is ours again.
We have come back in time from and empty and peaceful and probably, sadly, tidy house. What will we do with this moment?
The answer? Grab that crazy, sassy, infuriating, wonderful kid and love them right up.
Because despite my weird love of time travel, I’m pretty sure we are not actually getting that time machine.
We only have now. Today.
We need to grab on and do the thing we wish we would have done 20 years from now.
Look for the beauty.
Look for the joy.
Look into the eyes of that child or teenager who does not have the perspective you have and be the grown up. Show them how to give love in the face of adversity and disagreement.
Show them what it looks like to rise above the fight about bedtime or eating their dinner or boots borrowed without asking or what time they have to be home.
Show them the love and compassion you would show them as you stepped out of your trusty time machine.
We may need to close our eyes and take giant deep breaths if things are really crazy. These were helpful additions to this strategy when my daughter hit our garage with the car, for example. I was actually able to give her a hug before I did anything else, which may have been a miracle. But I knew time traveling me would have done the same.
Slow down, take a breath and remind them even when they drive us insane, they are loved with the same deep love that we had for them the moment we laid eyes on them.
That same pure, and uncomplicated love is right there and we can use that to see us through whatever they throw at us. We don’t actually need a time machine because we can grasp RIGHT NOW.
We are so blessed to have these moments with our people. Even the smashing into the garage and fights over brushing their hair or anguish over going to bed. They are all a blessing. They are the stories we will fondly tell years from now if we get this one thing right.
We infuse these moments with love.
Because all we have is now and we need to grab it with both hands. Before the moment passes us by.