When you lose your cool…

Bokeh Tree 2

…and it’s the holidays when you are not supposed to lose your cool!

So this happened. To me. Or rather, to my kids.

I snapped. Not just once, but a couple times already since they’ve been home. I don’t see myself this way—as a person who will “snap” and get testy or passive-aggressive when I’m under stress. I see myself in this idealized view—that I have patience and perspective, that I can say what I need directly, without using shame or manipulation to get what I want.

Then, the kitchen is upside down, and my brand new white dish towels are slowly drying with black tea stains, and I’m behind on my shopping, and there are piles of large adult children’s stuff tucked in around the edges of each room because that’s what college kids do with their stuff when home for break…

Bam! I get blind-sided by my own frustration and let it out! It’s not so much that I yell. Not my usual style. Rather, I bound into the room already on edge from shopping among thousands of other stressed last minute shoppers, aware that I have work to do, un-mindful of my hunger pangs, and cold. I see the evidence of a meal just made and the stained new tea towel—and react. I make declarative statements about who is responsible for “this mess” and blame randomly someone other than me for the tea towels and expect everyone to pop up and fix it.

I do, almost, cry. Over-reaction! Yet perhaps it is not at all an over-reaction. Perhaps that is the reaction that needed to happen hours before when I felt past my limit and worried about how I’d get it all done, before I entered the house and found someone to blame for my pent up anxiety.

The big kids snapped to, including my son’s girlfriend who also witnessed my meltdown. That’s when the guilt hit. I knew I’d been unnecessarily exasperated.

Fortunately for me, one of the kids called me on it. He stated calmly and honestly (but with hurt in his voice) that I had crossed a line—had crashed the peaceful atmosphere of the home with my anxiety and had misplaced my accusations. I hate that. I hate doing that. I hate being in the wrong. I hate that I had to apologize to my kids for that behavior and I even didn’t want to!

But I know it’s a gift—that if I can let go of my pride for a moment, I can stop the madness and start over with everyone. Which is what we did—I apologized, so did he, and we cleaned up the kitchen, and ate food, and turned up the thermostat, and watched TV by the fire.

Holidays are meant to be relaxed, homey opportunities for family togetherness. Weird how that vision can lead to the very things that undermine the goal: chaos, stress, expectation, and moodiness.

I rebooted last night. I’m glad my kids feel free to tell me when I’m out of line.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image by Eric Chan (cc cropped)

2 Responses to “When you lose your cool…”

  1. Joyfulmomof6 says:

    I like the honesty in this post.
    Why is it that we can give grace to others way more easily than we can to ourselves? We are still only human after all!
    It’s so nice to see how your grown children handled this- because you taught them to! Peace was restored and all was well again.

    I’m reminded of that children’s game Don’t Spill the Beans, where you keep putting in little plastic beans until one is the tipping point, and the container spills. We ALL have our tipping point, whether it be a dirty tea towel, or whatever. It’s how we resolve the issue that matters.
    In my childhood, this kind of thing would have lasted for days and days, with my mother bearing a grudge against anyone who “messed up her house”.
    I still have emotional scars from those days, but your kids (and mine) won’t because the air gets cleared right away, and they see that we are only human.

  2. Your doing better than you think if you are in a place to “hear” them when they call you on it – that’s a step in the right direction anyway…one the rest of us (or me, anyway) are not always as good at as we’d like 🙂