Do you ever have one those days, or even weeks, where your sweet, precious child suddenly turns into a grump monster? Argh, I am up to my neck in one of those days today! No, make that one of those weeks. It could be a growth spurt. It could be that final molar popping out. It could be the fact that she’s in the “three-nager” stage. Whatever it is, I’m not a fan.
Generally, my daughter is pretty obedient and follows the rules. If she wants to play in the noodle pool (a swimming pool filled with cut up pool noodles from the Dollar Store–it was cheaper than filling it with balls), she can’t chew on the noodles. If she wants to color on her chalkboard, she knows that chalk only goes on the chalkboard and nowhere else. If she wants to use stickers, they only go on paper, not on walls, tables, hair, or in her mouth. If she wants to walk at the store, she doesn’t go bolting across the place while I chase her with my cart and baby!
Lately she is in one those phases where she is pushing and pushing us as parents, testing to see what she can and can’t get away with. And it sucks. A lot. Because I’m left feeling like I’m constantly disciplining her. You’re chewing on the pool noodles again? You’re done playing in there. Cue meltdown. You colored all over your bear with chalk? Chalkboard is going away for a day. Meltdown. You ripped apart a sticker and stuck it all over your brother’s newly sprouted peach fuzz? You’re done with stickers. We’re talking deliberately disobeying right in front of my face after several warnings.
There’s a part of me that sits in my bed at night and thinks, “What is going on with her lately?!” But there’s a bigger part of me thinking, “Is it me?! Am I a horrible mother?! I feel like such a mean mom!” I hate that I spent the day taking toys away. I hate that I gave consecutive time outs. I hate needing to have yet another conversation about disobedience and how the rules are there to keep her safe. I end up feeling like I punished her all day (or all week), and I feel awful. I know parenting has it’s highs and lows, good and bad moments. And although it’s necessary to discipline her, I don’t like it.
It is these moments, these days, these weeks and phases that we, as moms, need encouragement–a reminder that we are GOOD parents. My old boss used to keep a folder in her desk. I think she called it her “Happy Folder.” Every time she got a thank you note, an encouraging card, or positive email she would put it in the folder. Then on the days where she had to deal with a rude person, or was just feeling down, she would pull out her folder and look through it, reminding herself why she was doing the job in the first place. And oh my goodness, every mom needs a happy folder!
For me, I have a note on my iPhone. Every time a stranger compliments my kids behavior in public or our parents praise us for how well we’re doing parenting ourselves, or when friends tell me how well-behaved and polite my daughter is, I write it down. I write down the moments when she surprises me, like how she wanted to give away her Christmas presents to those less fortunate or how she cried when she couldn’t come with to her baby brother’s doctor’s appointment because she wanted to help him be brave for his shots or how she was really kind and welcoming to the little girl at the park. I write it down because I so easily forget the good stuff and so severely remember the bad stuff.
On days like today, I need my happy folder. I need to remember that she’s not a “bad” kid. She’s actually a really good, considerate, smart, amazing kid! She’s just in the midst of some bad days. And I need to remember that I’m not a “bad” mom either. Those compliments make me so proud of my kids, but also of myself (and hubby) because we’ve worked hard teaching manners, sharing/generosity, and being considerate of others.
As moms, we often compare ourselves to fellow moms or compare our kids to other kids. But having a happy folder will help you (and me!) remember that you are already the best mom your kids could have, and you’re doing a great job!