I made a promise to my son yesterday, in an instant, without giving it much thought. It was Memorial Day, I was making breakfast for everyone, and he was whining. He was being incorrigible, as a matter of fact. He was despondent because he was bored, and he didn’t want what I was cooking, and why couldn’t he have some licorice, and why didn’t he ever get to do anything fun? He can muster up the foulest of moods at times, and this was one of those times.
I, on the other hand, was in a strangely light-hearted mood. Perhaps because I recently got a four-day hiatus from being a mom…perhaps because the night before some friends had us over for dinner and pampered us like nobody’s business…perhaps because I have been getting just slightly more sleep than usual lately. Anyway, in a uncharacteristic burst of optimism, I told him that I was going to stay calm and cheerful no matter what he said to me; I wouldn’t let him whine without sending him to his room, but I would not yell, and I would not let his mood turn my mood equally black and foul. And then I said it: “I promise!”
Well, I was kind of talking about just breakfast time. You know, just to get through to the next challenge of the day. But he took me at my word, and a few hours later, out of the blue, he reminded me. “Mom, remember that you promised to stay calm!”
Which made me realize that I had committed to an entire day of staying calm. I must admit, this gave me more than a little bit of a pause. Could I do it? Would I blow it? Would I end up screaming myself horse simply as a way to make myself heard above the fray? Or could I rise to the challenge and give the kids and myself a real gift?
Well, I actually rose to the challenge. I had a little help from my son; “the promise” became a little thing between us all day long. He would say “Remember, Mom!” Or I would say, “How’m I doin’ on the promise I made, buddy?”
Making that promise to him taught me a few things. First, that he listens to me. Which isn’t always apparent. Second, that it matters to him – to all of them – if I keep my word. And third, that being calm makes me a better parent. And why wouldn’t it? Why do we yell first and ask question (of them or of ourselves) later? What is going to be the harm if I stop for a minute and approach the situation quietly rather than like a crazed woman bent on ridding my children of malicious behavior? And why, oh why, must I re-learn these seemingly obvious lessons over and over?
Later that day, I was trying to play a movie for the kids that I had ordered online from DirecTV. I couldn’t get the darn thing to work, and the kids were on the verge of coming unglued. They were acting so impatient, and so…entitled. It was a great offense to them that they couldn’t watch their movie when they wanted to. It really bothered me; they seemed ungrateful, spoiled, unpleasant. Then I got on the phone to DirecTV and displayed some alarmingly unpleasant behavior myself, as I had to negotiate one of those evil automated phone systems and wait on hold for what seemed like an unjust amount of time.
So I went from scolding them for their intolerable behavior to exhibiting some of my own, right before their very eyes.
I caught myself, though. I told them that I was being ridiculous, and that I needed to show them how to be calm in the face of frustration. Then, I did my best to calmly tell the nice lady at DirecTV that their service sucks. But I was nice about it, I swear! And my kids got to see me practice what I preach. For once.
Make a promise to your kids today. It might just make your day.
And other food for thought:
Sometimes, a mess is just a mess, not a commentary on your worth as a human being.
Good food helps.
Slow down, world; here I come.