Being The Bad Guy (With A Good Attitude) Isn’t Always So Bad

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Sanity is optional in the world of parenting…

* Column of the Week:

“Can you stop doing that?!”

It’s only been 60 miles on our most recent family road trip, and already my husband and I are getting frustrated with our anxious 4 year old in the back seat. As a former little sister (being the baby of 5 children), I am un-phased by all whines or requests shouted from behind, because I practically invented every annoying noise in the road trip handbook. But since my husband grew up as one of 2 boys (no baby nieces and nephews to teach him the finite ratios of pureed prunes to diaper changes, or bedtime sugar to midnight wake ups), it’s a whole different story.

Since my family has been procreating at a rapid rate since I was a child (Catholicism may or may not have something to do with this), I’ve had the benefit of understanding the ins and outs of children at a very young age. If we’re preparing for a car ride, I load a backpack with more fruit snacks, mess-free coloring options and library books than even Dora could stand. If my 20 month old has been cooped up in a car seat for hours, you can find me burning 10,000 calories doing laps around a P.F. Chang’s while waiting for food (because otherwise, the sweet and sour chicken surely will fly).

In my experience, kids need an equal amount of leg stretching, food snacking and creative stimulus to survive almost all ventures in life (and a little bit of bribery never hurt anyone either). But to my husband, the entire notion of kids and their quirky nuances is often daunting. “She has to go the bathroom again?” he asks in disbelief, clearly not understanding that little girl bladders have been delaying car trips since the model age. Even worse, he fails to realize that an outdoor bathroom- requiring request for key, aimless search for outdoor stall, and return of key- is like the bottom draft pick for potty options. Even though men think that all restrooms are created equal (perhaps because they have the luxury of standing on tile-laden sludge), we women understand that when your child is prone to analyzing the pros and cons of Paddington’s marmalade fixation while sitting for 20 minutes on a toilet seat, Sheetz becomes the only sanitary option.

Never the less, sometimes daily frustrations and exacerbated attitudes can evolve into something worse…. they can turn in to habit. It’s so easy to be caught up in the whirlwind storm of discipline and instruction, that we forget the other sides of parenting (and no, it doesn’t always involve saying “no”). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we said so few “nos”, that our “nos” actually meant something? That when we were truly upset by our children’s behavior, it’s so far from the norm they’re affected?

Before having kids I used to joke that I would never be “that mom at Walmart who is always screaming at her offspring in Aisle 10”. After having children I realized that when you’ve dealt with your tenth temper tantrum in 10 minutes because they can’t get a miniature toy of sorts, an utter breakdown is pretty well worth considering. But as easy as it is, having a verbal show down with your three year old gets you nowhere (except maybe in a padded cell), and doesn’t help anyone learn from their mistakes. The cold hard truth of motherhood is that we don’t have the bonus of going mono-e-mono with our mono-year-old in the hopes that one of us will “win”. There is no “winning” when it comes to parenting, because motherhood isn’t about our emotions, our feelings or getting the last word. It’s about teaching our children how to deal with their emotions, how to express their feelings and how to use their words for good.

If we have to be the “bad guy” so that they can learn to be a better girl, so be it. If we have to bite our tongue and hold our breath so that they may gain more patience…then do it. But if we are constantly speaking in anger, perpetually gritting our teeth and forever talking about our ever graying-hair, all we’re teaching our children is the apparent burden that they bring to the table (even if that does involve airborne Asian cuisine while eating out). When times get tough (and they always do), I try to remind myself of the kind of mother I want my daughters to be one day. Will they parent based on their mood? Will they place their well being first? Will they avoid doing something to benefit their kid just because they’re tired? Nope. I sure as heck hope they’ll by a box of L’oreal hair dye, swallow their temper and find a way to teach.

You’ve got to love big families…

Mothers matter. We matter as woman and we matter as people. We should be able to have a moment to breathe, a space to relax or a place that makes us happy. But no matter how much we hate hearing it (or how much people will hate me for saying this)… motherhood is not a “sometimes” gig. It’s not a part time job. It’s up to you to always be the better person, to always do the right thing, and to always find that last ounce of patience deep within our depleted soul to exemplify unconditional love.

So the next time we find ourselves melting down in Aisle 10 or beginning to yell on the tenth hour of that road trip…take a deep breathe, and remember why you became a parent in the beginning. Was it to cherish the little moments, celebrate the tiny triumphs and soak in everything that makes your child unique? Most of us will probably find that even if our kids are yelling at ear-drum-crushing octaves or whining like there is no tomorrow, there is always a chance to turn it around, put a positive spin on the situation and give them just a little bit more love. There will be a tomorrow, but if we spend every moment of today feeling burdened by our children… the only future we’re hurting is theirs.

There is no greater burden on earth than the blessing that is my children. If I sleep a little less, eat a little more and rock the grey hair early? That’s ok with me.

At least I can look back on every car trip, every grocery store excursion and every near disaster and remember a time of laughter, a time of love, and most of all… a time to learn. So when we feel like we’re about to implode from the stressors of parenting, why not try to close our mouths for once, open our ears and fill our hearts with what our kids have to say.

Because in the end, they always have something to teach us.

* Bailey Vincent Clark is the Editor-in-chief, author and founder of Makeover Momma. She hosts Makeover Momma TV on Tuesday (7 PM/EST & 4 PM/PT), and writes this column weekly (at least in her dreams!)

Makeover Mommaâ„¢ occasionally receives cosmetic products for review, with no obligation to positively promote or cover said brand. Receiving products has absolutely no influence over our recommendation of any particular product.


Posted in 2008 - 2011 Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
One comment on “Being The Bad Guy (With A Good Attitude) Isn’t Always So Bad
  1. jessie says:

    love the realism in this blogg.
    always a good read and while in australia, isle 2 is the isle of destruction 🙂

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