A really bad day starts out when your preschooler wakes the baby. Then she fusses about whatever is available for breakfast, asks for something else and promptly rejects that when you serve it. Your frustration starts to build.
As your child senses that you are fed up, her anxiety rises and more and more defiance occurs. Then something spills. It is usually milk and you know it will smell bad later if not attended to immediately.
On such a day, your little one won’t play by herself at all. Because there is tension between you, she sticks like glue, when all you want or need is some space to calm down. Usually she can dress herself but today she won’t – or can’t decide what to wear. She doesn’t want to go to school. She may even keep unbuckling her seat belt.
You start out late, so you are rushing. You drop things. You forget her lunch. While you’re in the car, you notice that your clothes are on inside out – and so are hers. Then the cell phone rings and you know it’s the pediatrician calling back about something but you can’t find the phone in your purse.
You stop at a store and your child lies down in the floor and won’t stop screaming that you are a mean mommy because you said “no” to gum. People in the store look at you as though they believe your offspring is being abused.
All day, someone (sometimes you, sometimes her) is crying, getting hurt, getting angry or not cooperating. Little things become big things. On this kind of day, it’s easy to feel discouraged, worried about who your child will grow up to be and disappointed in your own parenting skills.
Whether you work or stay home with children, these days occur. They happen to everyone! Take heart. Even the best parents and children experience days of disconnection and stress. These days are signals that some readjusting needs to happen somewhere. What to do next?
- Unload on someone. Spouses are often not the best people on which to unload the frustrations of a bad day. Their anxiety rises and often they wade in, heavily complicating resolution. Get their insights after you are calm.
- Commiserate with your child at bedtime about how hard a day it was for both of you. Make a plan to do better tomorrow. Chances are your child already knows what’s supposed to happen. It feels good to agree with a parent that tomorrow will be better. Letting children know you believe in them can relieve and encourage them.
- Look at your sleeping child and think about a golden moment you have shared. Take a deep breath and start to let tomorrow be a brand new day.
On a good day, your child whispers in your ear: “Can I get up now?” It is already light and you have no problem with that. She tells you she likes oatmeal now and asks for more. She says, “We need a plan about getting dressed. How about I do the shirt, you do the pants?” This is a phrase you have been using with her and you realize she is learning to problem solve.
At school, your child waves goodbye happily. When you go to the store, you prepare her ahead of time: “There will be no gum.” Inside she says, “What can I have if I can’t have gum?” and you have time to stop and think of an answer in a way that feels good. Your child accepts your answer.
When you get home, you feel like playing a game or reading a book or taking a walk with your child because she is smiling and chatting and looking like she enjoys your company and you are not feeling rushed. No one is sick. No one is overly tired. No one is too hungry. You remember you have a sense of humor. You remember that children are childish. Sometimes that’s cute and delightful. On a good day, you gather energy that gets you through the next bad day.